Mel Reasoner (centre), on a panel with Greg Utzig (left) and Mike Flannigan, answers an audience member’s question at the Kootenay Wildfire and Climate Change Conference. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Mel Reasoner (centre), on a panel with Greg Utzig (left) and Mike Flannigan, answers an audience member’s question at the Kootenay Wildfire and Climate Change Conference. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Past Kootenay weather extremes will become new normal, scientist says

Mel Reasoner spoke at a Nelson conference this week

The average temperature in an average year in the 2050s in the Kootenays will be warmer than the most extremely hot years in the 20th century. (See the maps below.)

That’s even if there is a major effort to reduce carbon emissions.

“But it will be worse if there is a business-as-usual carbon scenario,” climate scientist Mel Reasoner told the audience of about 215 at the Kootenay Wildfire and Climate Change Conference.

His talk was a fitting background piece for the rest of the conference, much of which looked at how to deal with wildfire danger in light of projected increases in temperature and decreases in precipitation.

Reasoner said the mean annual temperature in the West Kootenay between 1961 and 1990 was 7.8 degrees Celsius, and that computer models tell us the area will warm above this temperature by about 2.6 degrees by mid-century. So following model projections, the mean annual temperature in the 2050s could be 10.4 degrees Celsius.

He also pointed out that the observed rate of warming in the area over the last 50 years is similar to the rate that was projected.

“Climate models have done a pretty good job of predicting what has happened, even though they get a lot of bad press,” Reasoner said, referring to comments such as those last year by former federal cabinet minister Joe Oliver.

Reasoner is a climate change consultant now based in Nelson whose past academic research focused on climate change and vegetation history in western North America. He has taught courses on weather, climate, climate change, paleoclimatology and geology.

He said winter precipitation in the West Kootenay is projected to go up by about 5 to 6 per cent by the 2050s and winter temperatures are projected to go up by about 2.7 to 3.1 Celsius, “so in general we are looking at warmer winters in the future.”

Summer precipitation is expected to go down by 7 to 13 per cent, he said.

Reasoner warned against drawing conclusions from one particularly wet summer or cold winter. He cited a headline during a recent cold winter: “What global warming? How about global cooling?”

“I think it is our DNA to focus on the variability,” he said. “We like to talk about how warm it was last summer or how cold last winter was, and we tend to miss the underlying trend, and that trend has been creeping up rapidly, and will continue to do so in the future.”

Reasoner said his consulting company is working on developing software that measures the probability of weather changes in specific times and places.

He used Cranbrook as an example.

“The probability of the temperature exceeding 41 degrees is virtually zero until about 2030, but by 2060 it is up to 60 per cent. And if your your bridge decks fail at 41 degrees then you have some useful information for planning.”

He said if this technique can be used for bridge decks it could be used for many other things.

Reasoner began his talk by saying that almost 30 years ago James Hanson, then the director of the NASA Goddard institute of Space Studies, provided an early warning to a congressional committee that climate change was real and that we were going to see it getting worse in the future.

“He was going out on a limb because there had not been much warming to that point, but Hansen understood atmospheric physics and the greenhouse effect. The CO2 contribution to it had been known for a long time, but what he had seen coming was a fairly rapid warming over the subsequent decades. This was no surprise to the scientific community.”

Related stories in the Nelson Star:

• More planned forest fires needed: wildfire expert

• Nelson conference will explore climate change and wildfire

• COLUMN: Will West Kootenay forests survive?

• COLUMN: Climate change and West Kootenay wildfires



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The mean annual temperature in the Columbia Basin in the 1950s (left) was 1.5 degrees Celsius, and projected for the 2050s, 4.9 degrees. Source: Columbia Basin Trust

The mean annual temperature in the Columbia Basin in the 1950s (left) was 1.5 degrees Celsius, and projected for the 2050s, 4.9 degrees. Source: Columbia Basin Trust

Just Posted

A woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 uses walking sticks while walking up a hill, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Interior Health reports 83 more COVID-19 infections overnight

46 cases are now associated with a COVID-19 community cluster in Revelstoke

Laird Creek watershed logging road. Photo: Renee Hayes.
COLUMN: Healthy watersheds support resilient communities

Kendra Norwood writes about nature-based planning

Glacier Gymnastics head coach Sandra Long says she doesn’t understand why her sport is currently shut down while others are allowed to operate. Photo: Tyler Harper
‘It is bewildering’: Nelson sports leaders call out provincial shut down

Indoor group classes for activities such as gymnastics and dance are on hold

An employee of the Adventure Hotel was taken to hospital on Nov. 20 after she confronted a customer of Empire Coffee about not wearing a mask. File photo.
UPDATE: Nelson hotel employee suffers heart attack after being assaulted in anti-mask incident

This update includes the present condition of the victim and a comment from the police department

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Interior Health said its new toll-free line will help people connect to health-care services. (File)
Interior Health expands toll-free line to improve access to community care

By calling1-800-707-8550, people can be connected to several health-care services

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Most Read