New climate atlas aims to help communities assess risks, adapt to change
New atlas predicts Iqaluit's future to be wetter and warmer
Nunavummiut are no strangers to the realities of a warming climate, a phenomenon that only promises to intensify in the years to come.
“We Inuit are the most affected in the world,” an Inuk woman remarked in the 2010 documentary Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change.
One of the film’s co-directors, Ian Mauro, an environmental scientist at the University of Winnipeg, has continued to document those changes—in the North and the south.
Through the university’s Prairie Climate Centre, Mauro and a team of researchers have just launched a climate atlas, a new digital tool that aims to quantify climate change, so Canada’s cities and region can better adapt to it.
Mauro said the new atlas brings climate science and storytelling together.
“We believe the atlas can help guide the country towards a less risky and more sustainable future,” he said on April 4, at the launch of the atlas in Winnipeg.
Across Canada’s North, that means designing building and transportation infrastructure that reflects a changing climate. It can also mean a shift in how and when Inuit travel on the land or take part in traditional activities.
Using 25 climate variables, based on 12 climate models, the atlas makes a number of climate projections for the latter half of the century.
And the atlas suggests Iqaluit’s future looks wetter and much warmer.
While the community’s mean temperature between 1976 and 2005 was -8.9 C, the atlas’s high-carbon climate projection says that between 2051 and 2080, that mean temperature would rise to -3.4 C.
Over that same period, Nunavut’s capital would see 103 millimetres more precipitation, while its frost-free season would grow from 72 days to 110 days.
The atlas also predicts the temperature on the warmest summer day in Iqaluit will rise from 19.8 C to 22.7 C. (See table below.)
“Climate change may threaten the integrity of infrastructure such as roads, bridges, water supply, and telecommunications, most of which has not been built to withstand future extremes,” according to the report on Iqaluit in the atlas.
“While a longer ice-free season may increase the possibility of shipping, changes to permafrost and ice cover will affect the roads, winter travel routes, and airstrips in this quickly growing city.”
That’s just Iqaluit—the atlas includes data from 2,000 towns, cities and region, plus interviews with more than 300 participants and 250 interactive map layers.
Most of the country is in the early stages of climate change risk assessment and adaption planning, the atlas creators say; the tool aims to encourage local, regional and even national action that will encourage a shift “from climate risk to resilience.”
The federal government contributed $1 million to the development of the new atlas, while Environment Minister Catherine McKenna helped launched the new tool at the University of Winnipeg on April 4.
Visit the climate atlas here.