Human-induced climate change played major role in B.C. wildfires: Study

Stock photo/pexels.com

Researchers have concluded that human-induced climate change is largely to blame for the severity of forest fires that ripped through British Columbia in 2017.

A new study published in Earth’s Future has found that the 1.2-million hectare area that burned that year was seven to 11 times larger than it would have been without human influences on climate.

“As the climate continues to warm, we can expect that costly extreme wildfire seasons—like 2017, in BC—will become more likely in the future,” said Megan Kirchmeier-Young a research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. “This will have increasing impacts on many sectors, including forest management, public health, and infrastructure.”

The 2017 wildfire season displaced 65,000 people and exposed millions to smoke-filled air. The area burned that year was record-setting, but was later surpassed in 2018, the study said.

Researchers found that extreme temperatures in B.C. during the 2017 summer were made more than 20 times more likely due to human-induced climate change.

Scientists from Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium at the University of Victoria led the study and warned that extreme forest fires resulting from human influences on climate change will intensify in the future without further action.


Record levels of American women want to move to Canada

Stock photo/pexels.com

An increasing number of Americans want to follow through on their threats to move to Canada.

Canada is the top destination for record levels of Americans who have wanted to leave the United States since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, according to a new Gallup poll.

The study shows 20 per cent of American women want to migrate out of their country. When Barack Obama was president, only 10 per cent of women polled wanted to leave.

Roughly 30 per cent of the people polled between the age of 15 and 29 also wanted to get out of the U.S.

While Canada always has been one of the top destinations favoured by Americans, the poll showed that desire has increased since Trump became president. More than 25 per cent of Americans who participated in the study named Canada as their preferred destination, while only 12 per cent did so in 2016.

The study said Americans love to threaten to move to Canada if an election doesn’t go their way, but very few actually follow through. So far, there has only been a “modest uptick in the number of Americans who have moved to Canada,” the study said.

Saskatchewan man walks across Canada because he ‘just felt like walking’

Zayell Johnston stands by a map of Canada that shows his route. Photo/Zayell Johnston

A Saskatchewan man was channeling his inner Forrest Gump in 2018.

Zayell Johnston walked all the way across Canada last year just because he felt like it.

The Yorkton, Sask. man started his journey in Victoria, B.C. in February 2018 and dipped his feet in the Atlantic Ocean by the end of the year.

Others who have made similar treks have usually done so to promote a cause or to raise money for charity. Johnston’s voyage was rooted in something more simple.

“I just felt like walking,” he told Yorkton This Week.

Johnston said the longest part of his cross-country trip was Ontario, which took him two months to walk through.

Petition calls for U.S. to give strip of land to Canada

A new petition is calling on the United States government to transfer a piece of land technically in Minnesota to Canada.

The petition, which was launched on the “We the People” section of the White House website, claims the area, known as the Northwest Angle, only became part of the U.S. because of a surveying error.

The area is connected by land to Manitoba and is the only part of the U.S. other than Alaska that sits above the 49th parallel.

The petition’s author argued that the area’s 120 residents are native to Canadian soil, as Benjamin Franklin and British representatives relied on a flawed map from 1755 when they negotiated Canada’s borders.

“Make America great by correcting this critical survey error,” the petition said.

The White House responds to petitions on its website if they amass at least 100,000 signatures.

As of the end of Wednesday, the petition had garnered more than 1,000 signatures, but it will need to reach its goal by Jan. 29 in order to trigger a response.

Extreme weather causing wine headaches in Prince Edward County

There is a joke among grape growers that they are never happy because it is either too wet, too dry, too hot or too cold.

But for Prince Edward County winemakers, fluctuations in temperature and unpredictable weather events in recent years have made their line of work even more frustrating than usual.

Over the last five years, the Ontario winemaking area’s grape growers have encountered drought, flooding and even a late spring frost, which have all wreaked havoc on their crops.

“There are people who joke that they’re just waiting for the plague of locusts, and then we’ll be complete and we can just get back to normal,” said Caroline Granger, the owner of the Grange of Prince Edward Vineyards and Estate Winery.

Winegrowers say climate change has made weather patterns so unpredictable in recent years that they cannot rely on grape yield. In an industry that relies so heavily on climate, this has made it difficult to budget and forecast production levels.

Granger said she expects variations from year to year, but the weather of the last five years has been well beyond the normal ebbs and flows. She knows the land and its typical climate well, having built her vineyard and winery on a farm her parents bought in 1974.

Of the last four years, Granger said three of them were impossible to predict.

In 2015, a late spring frost was fairly devastating for grape growers when the temperature dropped to below -5 C. Then in 2017, Granger’s vineyard saw flooding that lasted well into the summer.

This year, the county saw levels of heat and humidity that Granger said were unprecedented. Usually when there is a particularly hot summer, grape growers get a bit of a reprieve from high temperatures in September, but that was not the case this year. The first two weeks of September were very hot and humid, which posed problems as grapes ripened very quickly.

For Keith Tyers, a winemaker at Closson Chase Winery, most of the last ten years have been challenging. He said climate-related issues have changed the way grape growers have approached everything.

“If anyone says climate change or global warming doesn’t exist, just talk to a grape grower. We’ll tell you that nothing’s the same. It’s so inconsistent,” said Tyers.

Prince Edward County’s grape growers are now wrestling with how to deal with the unpredictable weather. Monitoring the weather has always been part of the job description for grape growers, but they have had to pay extra close attention to weather reports in recent years.

Granger and her staff have been inspecting their vines three times more often than they used to, looking for telling variations.

As with other types of farming, Ontario grape growers only get one harvest a year, which means they only get one chance a year to learn something that you can apply to the following season. So any change in method can come slowly and even slower when weather is as unpredictable as it has been in recent years, Granger said.

“It’s a mixed bag situation. You win in some areas and you lose in some areas”

One silver lining of the volatile weather for Granger has been that challenging years have produced some great wines, despite not in the quantities she would have liked.

“As we are working our way through anomalies, weather variation or climate change and each year is quite different from the one before, it makes the wines vary and it makes them interesting,” she said.

While winegrowers lament the fluctuating weather, some researchers say climate change may have some benefits for Ontario winemaking in the future.

Anthony Shaw, a geography professor Brock University, said climate change will bring milder winters, warmer growing seasons and longer frost-free periods. This could be beneficial for some red varieties of grape such as cabernet franc, which typically take longer to reach full maturity, he said.

Shaw said Ontario has already started to see milder winters, but that volatility in weather has accompanied that change. He said it is typically better for winegrowers that winters remain cooler before a gradual transition into fall. But that kind of smooth transition period has been happening less, he said.

“It’s a mixed bag situation. You win in some areas and you lose in some areas,” said Shaw, who is also a fellow at the university’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute.

For grape growers, the prospect of a longer growing season is far from comforting as they continue to deal with erratic weather. Tyers said the only thing grape growers in the area can count on is that the unexpected will happen.

“You look back at the end of the season, discuss what you think you did right, and where you think you can improve, but that’s all you can do,” he said.