• Hannah Sabourin

Shorter skiing seasons, more violent wind storms

Climate researchers predict that more derechos, tornadoes, and floods will sweep through the Gatineau Hills in the next 80 years.


The National Capital Commission (NCC) – a Crown corporation that takes care of urban planning and conservation for the Ottawa-Gatineau region – released a report in June that details how climate change might impact existing infrastructure and natural habitats in the next 80 years.


According to the report, as temperatures increase, those who live in the Ottawa-Gatineau region could experience more droughts and extreme heat, more seasonal variables, heavy rainfalls, and more extreme weather events like tornadoes and ice storms.


Maryam El-Akhrass, an NCC climate risk report consultant, explained that “slightly warmer winters with less snow might be a nice thing, [there will be] extremes in other areas. For example, extreme storms like the derecho that we just experienced, the tornado in 2018, or the floods in 2019 — we expect to see more of that back-to-back.”


The report explains that these weather changes could pose a threat to infrastructure and ecosystems. The corporation found that many homes, businesses and parks in all NCC sectors are vulnerable to climate change.


After reading the NCC report, researcher Allyson Quinlan from Action Chelsea for the Respect of the Environment (ACRE) said,“[no] place, including Chelsea, is immune to the impacts of climate change. Chelsea is vulnerable to [...] infrastructure challenges [...] including damage to asphalt roads, sidewalks, and shallowly buried infrastructure from thermal cracks and frost heave.”


Climate change may also shorten Gatineau Park’s season for snowshoeing and skiing.


Commenting on this, Quinlan explained that, “many people who live in Chelsea value its outdoor recreation opportunities [in] Gatineau park [and its] surrounding areas. A shorter winter ski season would mean less time on trails and reduced health benefits.”


Despite possible impacts of the warming planet, the municipality of Chelsea is “implementing a strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050,” she added.


El-Akhrass expressed concern about the impact of extreme heat on the health of Ottawa-Gatineau residents: “I think about how extreme heat affects people’s health. More and more people are going to be taking refuge in the green parks and forests that the NCC manages,” she explained.


“We also need to be thinking about how to design shade structures and how we design projects that can cope with the heat. We want to [consider] people’s comfort inside those buildings — thicker walls and roofs for insulation,” continued El-Akhrass.


Before addressing these issues, the report indicates that the NCC will release a detailed action plan in 2023.


Report findings include:

  • Much infrastructure is ill-equipped to withstand floods, heat waves, and violent wind storms;

  • Increasing extreme weather events limit the NCC’s recovery responses in parks;

  • Increased precipitation could worsen floods and cause landslides;

  • Warmer weather could attract migratory, invasive species/diseases to the region;

  • Seasonal changes could also damage archeological sites by eroding clay sediments that preserve fossils;

  • Extreme heat could also increase algal blooms, reducing the amount of potable water for crops.

For more information about the NCC climate impacts predictions, visit their website: https://bit.ly/3zfrklV.