The current drought in Nova Scotia and eastern Ontario are expected to become the new normal as Canadian farmers brace for ongoing drought conditions brought about by a warming planet.
Firefighters and water bombers have arrived in Nova Scotia to help contain wildfires burning across the province, including the Seven Mile Lake forest fire near Kejimkujik National Park, which has been burning since August 4th. The lack of precipitation has bumped Nova Scotia’s forest fire weather index -where a count in the mid-20s is considered extreme- up to the mid-40s, and officials say that the budget for fighting fires is expected to double or triple this year.
“Our typical budget is $650,000,” says Walter Fanning, regional services director for the Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources. “The majority of that was used up last week.”
The drought-like conditions have dropped water levels in Halifax-area lakes and rivers and put fruit crops in the Annapolis Valley at risk, with only a small percentage of area growers set up to irrigate crops.
If you take the warmest summer you can remember, in 50 years from now, that will be the coolest summer…
“We need a significant rain pretty quickly,” says Andy Parker, apple farmer and president of the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers’ Association. “And so if we could get a couple inches of rain out of the system that’s coming through this weekend, we would all be pretty happy.”
The hot, dry weather is a tale of what is to come, says Environment Canada’s senior climatologist David Phillips. “This is a heads-up as to what our summers ahead will be,” says Phillips, in an interview with the Belleville Intelligencer. “If you take the warmest summer you can remember, in 50 years from now, that will be the coolest summer,” he said.
While currently in the midst of an unusually wet summer, Canada’s Prairies are over the longer term expected to become drier as temperatures climb. Researchers with the Prairie Climate Centre at the University of Winnipeg have projected that while global warming will likely give the Prairies a longer growing season and potentially allowing for the introduction of new crops, rising temperatures combined with projected losses in precipitation in an area of the country habitually concerned with rainfall will in reality translate into more heat waves, droughts and forest fires. Half of Canada’s farms are found in the Prairies, which represent the world’s sixth largest food exporting region. But projections from the Prairie Climate Centre show that this production could be cut in half over the coming decades.
“Many do not fully appreciate how much the Prairie climate is expected to change,” says climatologist Dr. Danny Blair, the Director of Science for the Prairie Climate Centre and Principal of the University of Winnipeg’s Richardson College for the Environment.
2016 is shaping up to be the warmest year on record, according to data released by NASA and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with every month so far having hit new temperature highs. The year-to- date average global temperature has so far been identified as 1.05 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average.