Monday, 18 April 2011

Manitoba Floods Close Main Highway Artery Into the 'States - Is THIS Climate Change?

by Larry Powell - In its latest flood bulletin, the Government of Manitoba has announced it has closed a key access road between Winnipeg and North Dakota, PTH 75, (l.) "as a result of rising floodwater."   
The flooding is already covering a larger area of the province than ever before. And flood levels in the Red River Valley are expected to top leves in 2009, the 2nd worst flood in the province in 150 yrs.    
There have been hundreds of rural road closures, states of emergency and evacuations of both residences and personal care homes.         
Two deaths have been attributed to the flooding.    
 Ice jams on the Assiniboine River west of Winnipeg yesterday caused the water to rise almost 2 meters (6ft). The jams have now moved out, sending water downstream. And that is expected to raise water levels of 30 cm (1 ft) going into Winnipeg. 
The Town of Melita (in the southwest of the province) has declared a state of local emergency.  Work is ongoing on the Melita dike to protect the community. 
The Assiniboine Valley at St. Lazare 
A section of the ring dike at St-Lazare will be raised by approximately 30cm as a precautionary measure in preparation for high flows from the Qu'Appelle River expected later this week.     
 This bridge, (r.) near the confluence of the Qu'Appelle and Assiniboine Rivers at St. Lazare, had very little "freeboard" beneath it, when I visited there yesterday (Sunday) and the crests haven't even arrived yet!
A second peak is expected over the weekend along the Qu'Appelle River. Part of PTH 41 is expected to close because of high waters.

Due to high flows on the Assiniboine, the Portage Diversion has been operated at or near maximum  capacity for the last three days. 
This is the normally docile Boggy Creek, now swollen and rushing toward Lake of the Prairies, on the Assiniboine River near Roblin. (All photos & video by l.p.)
PUBLISHER'S COMMENT: Is it global warming?
I put that question to the chief climatologist at Environment Canada, Dave Phillips. I had sent him a news account out of the States. In it, climate scientists suggested a link between the extreme blizzards which struck the eastern seaboard in the previous two winters, ("Snowmageddons") and climate change. As they explained, that's because a warmer atmosphere can hold a lot more precipitation - hence, more intense rainfalls/snowfalls. So I asked Mr. Phillips whether this might be the case in this country, as well. Here is his response, in an email to me on March 14th. l.p.
 Hello Larry:
Thank you for your question and reference to the newspaper article. (...That article...) focused on weather in the United States but the circulation pattern described in the piece is also influencing the weather here in Canada.  For example what the writer says about the Red River in North Dakota applies equally so in Manitoba and most Canadians in Atlantic Canada will say this winter has been especially difficult with its parade of storms.  I think that climate is having the same effect on our extremes as in the United States.  What is especially becoming evident in recent years is the increased variability of the weather and that likely is associated with altered climate.  More so there seems to be an increase in the frequency of heavy rainfalls.  We are seeing that in Canada.  More of our flooding events come from intense rainfalls than snow and and ice melting events which were the big flood producers of the past.  Just last month a seminal ariticle appeared in Nature linking rainfall intensity with anthropogenic climate change.  Again, I think if you look for them there are changes in the frequency, intensity and duration of extreme weather events in Canada just as there are in the United States.
Thanks for your interest Larry.
David Phillips


Syd Baumel said...

Hey Larry,

I googled , and your blog entry was about 5 hits down. Small world. I was just saying to a friend tonight that I suspect what we're seeing lately is the new normal for southern Manitoba and that we need to find new ways to adapt. I googled just now to see what the experts are saying about this.


Larry Powell said...

Thanks for the comment, Syd.

Call me a cockeyed optimist. But my dream remains that the powers-that-be will some day (the-sooner-the-better) tackle the root-causes of our climate crisis. Surely "adapting" (building taller dikes and digging deeper ditches) can only take us so far. Meaningful "mitigation" or "harm reduction" can surely only come with a frontal attack on the build-up of greenhouse gases, through a reduction in the use of fossil fuels.