Warming Atlantic Linked To Hurricane Igor Devastation in Newfoundland

Much of the east coast of Newfoundland was devastated by Hurricane Igor on Tuesday. Roads have been washed out, electricity is gone, communities have been cut off from help, and one man has been washed out to sea. By now, at least 30 communities have declared a state of emergency.

The news coverage that I heard yesterday had locals emphasizing the unusual strength of Igor. The town clerk from Bonavista interviewed on As It Happens on CBC radio said he’d never seen winds that strong or rainfall that heavy in his lifetime – and Bonavista is on a windy, wet peninsula! Sam Synard, the Mayor of Marystown was quoted in The Star as saying:

We’ve never seen such a violent storm before.” Synard reported that more than 200 millimetres of rain was dumped in 20 hours, “and very few, if any communities in the country, could deal with that amount of rainfall.”

My heart goes out to Newfoundlanders – “The Rock” is one of my favourite places on earth. The header photo on my blog was taken during a visit last September.  I wish the good people of Newfoundland Godspeed in their recovery from this devastation.

Unfortunately, the warming of the atmosphere and the resulting warming of the ocean which has happened as a result of our unbridled burning of fossil fuels in the last century is making severe weather events like this more and more frequent. The economic as well as the human toll will only increase (the Newfoundland government is predicting it will take at least $100 million to repair the damage from this storm). Recent research has shown that we are experiencing more storms with higher wind speeds, and these storms are more destructive, last longer and make landfall more frequently than in the past. This is our new reality, in Canada and around the globe, as the Arctic ice and the permafrost melt, and the oceans get warmer.  We are starting to reap the destruction that we have sown, and it’s not going to be pleasant.

It’s time for all of us to demand that our governments, particularly at the federal level, start addressing this issue in more ways that just preserving Canada’s claim to the Arctic so we can dig up more oil and gas! For ways to do this, check out Cheryl McNamara’s recent post on Bill C311 – the Climate Accountability Act, or go to my “Action not Apathy” page.

More links:

National Geographic: Is Global Warming Making Hurricanes Worse?

Union of Concerned Scientists: Hurricanes and Climate Change

Popular Science: Hurricane, Climate Change Link Explained

Real Climate: Hurricanes and Climate Change – Is There A Connection?

Canada, Russia expected to win Arctic claims at UN

The following photos were taken around Marystown, on the Burin Peninsula, by Andrew Lundrigan, and posted on the FB page “Hurricane Igor Hits Marystown”

Global Warming: Is It True?

Via Climate Progress, a new video by James Powell, Executive Director of the National Physical Science Consortium, which summarizes the evidence for anthropogenic global warming: “everything you wanted to know about climate science under 10 minutes.”

Powell is a former college and museum president.  President Reagan and later, President George H. W. Bush, both appointed Powell to the National Science Board, where he served for 12 years.


I am away this week on a low-carbon canoe trip in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. Enjoy the video!

Google Earth: The Climate Crisis

I found this great compilation video at the WordPress blog Earth Online Media. Watch it, and hear about the potential impacts of climate change on our planet Earth and find out about possible solutions for adaptation and mitigation


Go to this Google Earth link for more info.

We Ignore the Voices from Canada’s Rapidly Changing Arctic At Our Peril

Yesterday the documentary Arctic Re-Imagined aired on CBC Radio’s “The Current”. In it, journalist Chris Wodskou explores what it means for Canada to be an Arctic nation in a time of dramatic climate changes in the far north.

One of the voices featured in the half-hour documentary is that of  Zacharias Kunuk, award-winning director whose films include Atarnarjuat: The Fast Runner. Kunuk was born in Kapuivik in Nunavut, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Here are some of his reflections, from Arctic Re-Imagined, on the changes that are happening in real-time for the Inuit who inhabit the far north:

“The ice used to be so thick in springtime when we were hunting for seals. Now, it’s like everything is a month early and a month later in fall before freeze-up.”

“We used to have a lot of multi-year ice. Now we only have first year ice; the heat – what we’re noticing – most of the hunters think it’s coming from the sea. What the elders are noticing the most is the sun doesn’t rise where it used to.”

This change in the appearance of the sun is an unexpected aspect of climate change. When air that is warmer than before blankets a still-cold landscape there are changes in the refraction of the sun’s rays, bending the sun’s light in different ways.  Keep in mind that the high Arctic is plunged into darkness when the sun disappears in December and only starts to reappear weeks later in the middle of January. With only an hour or so of “day glow” each day, the Inuit are keenly appreciative and aware of the sun when it does appear.

“…In the second week of January the sun starts to arrive over the horizon . And the elders noticed, because they are always observing the environment, they’ve noticed  that it had shifted to the right from where it used to rise. They are saying the sun is a lot higher in the summertime…”

“Even in the high Arctic one of the hunters was telling me in the 1950s they used to have one hour of day glow in the winter. Now they have two hours. So you think the world really tilted.”

“We still use the old techniques [of predicting weather], and add new ones. Climate change…well, you notice it. We have to adapt to it, have to change our routes, our travel routes.”

“We are already noticing this last summer due to climate change there’s more fresh water on top of the salt water. Because in the summertime when we shoot seals they float and we just pick them up.  For the past two years, we’ve been noticing seals that we shoot have been sinking when they’re not supposed to…”

To listen to the entire documentary, click here and scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on “Listen to Part 3”.  Click here for Canadian Inuit activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier’s message on 350.org, and here to read the Inuit Call to Global Leaders: Act Now on Climate Change (give the pdf a few minutes to load).

Click here for actions you can take to make a difference on climate change.

Inuksuk Point (Inuksugalait, “where there are many Inuksuit“), Foxe Peninsula (Baffin Island), Nunavut, Canada. Photo by Ansgar Walk