Weather or Climate?

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Yesterday, in Rimouski and all along the coast of Bas-St-Laurent and Gaspésie (Québec), it was very rainy and very windy with gusts around 80 to 100 km/h.  A depression was installed just over the St-Lawrence estuary.  Combine that to some really high spring tides and we ended up with hundreds of displaced people, thousands of damaged properties along the shore and millions of $ in damages (and don't argue that's Canadian $, it worth the same now!).


Just imagine that beyond the rolling waves, there should be a 4m tall wall, with a large beach, and then the waters...

Would it be unfair to blame that on climate change?  I agree it is more about weather here, but it's been observed that hitching a ride with climate change, extreme weather events are on the rise.  And it's not just climatologists: some old folks in their 80's told yesterday in the news that they don't remember something like that...  and that it should have been snowing at this time of year!  We grow wary having to wait to prepare our country-skiing trails!


Moreover, it was the same pattern earlier this year when the Gulf of St-Lawrence seal's breeding and subsequent hunting seasons were a disaster due to the record low sea-ice condition.  Other old folks said they did not remember years... oh no, wait, they remembered one year in the 50's, of no hunting season because there was no ice at the horizon!  And strangely, no need to be an old folk to remember 2007 and 2002, which were really bad, too...



 And this is the real deal.  Less sea-ice, less land-fast ice especially.  Huge coastal lands have already been lost to erosion everywhere along the Gulf of St-Lawrence coasts, because there is less and less ice to protect the shore from the raging winter waves.  And during the past 50 years or so, several cycles of positive/negative NAO, El-Nino/La-Nina occurred... but the trend remained, and increased steadily.


Climate change can severely harm cute fluffy harp seals pups, sure, but it definitely affect the life of people, climate sceptics and environmentalists alike, if they happen to live in the wrong place, which used to be the best places not so long ago.

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Powerful stuff. While blaming any weather event (or even the quality of any winter) on climate change is dodgy, all of the events you describe are consistent with a changing (warming) climate. One way of capturing the climate-changiness is through forensics. While I would expect crappy weather in Canada this time of year, I would expect cold and snow. My guess is the storm in the video originated in the tropics or subtropics and that these storms rarely penetrated so far north in the past during December. If this is the case, then I think you could make a case that climate change played a role in your storm.

The research consortium "Ouranos" funded by the Québec Nature and Technology Agency ( produced several compelling studies about the rising trend in storm events, their effects on the shores etc. The frequency of really high storm surge is more than one per decade now, compared to around one every 40 to 50 years for the preceding century.
I don't know, though, where is their origin (North or South), but about 40% of the storms occur during winter.

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This page contains a single entry by Frederic Maps published on December 7, 2010 3:20 PM.

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