Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

More rain in B.C. forecast

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VANCOUVER -- British Columbia is already well known for its rainy days when front after front of clouds heading east over the province's mountain ranges routinely release staggering amounts of moisture.

For instance, Environment Canada data shows that between 1971 and 2000, an average of 2,437 millimetres -- or 2.4 metres -- of rain, and some snow, fell each year at one precipitation-monitoring facility in North Vancouver alone.

Umbrella-carrying, hat-wearing Vancouverites love to complain about all that rain. They grumble at the gloomy television weather forecasts, long for a vacation in the sun and trade stories about ineffective windshield wipers.

But they also tell themselves that B.C. is blessed in many ways, particularly with regard to its vast water resources. They joke about those walls of gravity-fed water moving toward the ocean being what make the big trees here grow. They understand the sometimes seemingly non-stop rain is the price of living in perhaps the most beautiful city in Canada. What few of them accept, however, is that Vancouver and the rest of the province are going to get even more rain as the century unfolds. A lot more.

Blame it on climate change. Even if we are successful in adding no further carbon to the atmosphere, a highly unlikely event considering the world has yet to reduce its addiction to toxic fossil fuels, science says global warming will continue its relentless march. In B.C., according to climate and weather models, that means less snow and more rain.

A report published last year by the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, based at the University of Victoria, indicated that by 2080, there will be a 2.7 C increase in the average B.C. temperature compared to 1990. That temperature increase, the report added, would translate into nine per cent more rain across the province by 2080. It also means 12 per cent less snow in the winter and 70 per cent less snow in the spring.

Deborah Harford, executive director of the Adaptation to Climate Change Team at Simon Fraser University, is well aware of the disturbing trends that are rapidly altering our expectations of weather patterns.

Harford suggests Grouse Mountain, which is across Burrard Inlet from Vancouver and has a height of 1,230 metres, will likely not have a natural ski season by 2025.

She said that for every degree of warming, the atmosphere could hold seven per cent more moisture, forming massive "atmospheric rivers" capable of unleashing catastrophic amounts of rain over parts of B.C.

The cost of all that additional rain is potentially enormous, she said, adding the bill for climate-change-related incidents in the U.S. last year reached more than $139 billion, with the taxpayers picking up most of the tab.

The expected torrential rains in B.C.'s future, she added, will likely cause major flooding that could pollute the drinking supply as water and sewage infrastructure are overwhelmed. It could also threaten the province's food supply, as a number of crops could be destroyed.

Harford noted the global atmosphere has already warmed one degree Celsius since the start of the Industrial Revolution and the global temperature increase is expected to be between two and six degrees.

She said that means citizens have to tell politicians it's time to move away from continued use of coal, oil and natural gas.

While Harford understands many people are either unaware or afraid of global warming, she said it is occurring and humankind has the "adaptive advantage" of being able to change its ways.

"All in all, I think we have to reinvent B.C.," she said.

Chris Rose is the Winnipeg Free Press West Coast correspondent.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 25, 2013 J1

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