The pathway at Charles Daley Park was closed this year due to significant spring flooding. Photo by Meredith DeCock, June 2019.
Everyone in Canada loves to talk about the weather. We hear about it on the radio, see it on TV and it’s often the first topic of conversation with anyone you bump into. We also hear the word climate (or climate change) used interchangeably with weather—and this is where we start having some confusion.
Weather is what you experience on a day-to-day basis. For instance, it may be sunny and cold today with rain in the forecast for the rest of the week. It’s what we feel when we go outside, and it influences our activities: If it’s sunny and cool then it’s time for a walk! Freezing rain? You might want to rethink your outdoor plans.
Climate is a little more complex to explain.
Climate is more about the characteristics of a place over time. We live in a temperate climate here in Ontario. This means that we have four seasons, with cold winters and warm summers. Scientists characterize climate by looking at the mean of weather variables (such as temperatures) over a period of 30 years or more.
Since the beginning of time on Earth, the climate has changed—and continues changing—to coincide with geological changes, such as the movement of continents. There are also cycles in the geological record of changing climates that are largely centered around significant events such as ice ages and meteorite impact on the Earth.
So, if climate change is a natural occurrence, why are we talking about it so much these days? Climate usually changes at a very slow pace and we would need a very long time period to detect most of those changes. So slowly, in fact, that you usually cannot even feel these changes. Since humans have started using fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, gasoline, tar sands and oil), however, these changes are happening at a significantly faster pace.
Why? Fossil fuels bring chemicals (now infamously known as greenhouse gasses) back to the surface and into the atmosphere, which accelerates changes in temperature and other variables, such as air currents and rainfall. We need some of these gasses to keep the Earth relatively warm (if not, we would be at about –98oC!) but when too much is released, we heat up the planet to a problematic degree.
A warmer planet may not seem like a bad idea in theory—especially for those of us who yearn for longer summers here in Canada! A warmer planet, however, means warmer water and air, which in term leads to melting sea ice and glaciers. This results in more water in our seas and lakes that accumulates until there’s nowhere left for it to go, causing coastal communities to flood. These changes in temperature in the air and water also cause other extreme events such as storms, hurricanes, tornadoes and heavy rainfall.
The serious flooding and increase of severe rainstorms we’ve experienced across the Niagara region this year alone is evidence of the serious implications of our changing climate.
So, what can we do about it?
Researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can adapt, and increase resiliency, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May and Alex Marino) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Continue to monitor this page to read new blog posts every week. These posts are written by the MEOPAR Research Team, comprised of Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May and Alex Marino. For more information about the project, contact us using this form, or, via email at email@example.com