Five years after the June 2013 Flood

It has been 5 years since the devastating flood of June 2013 that impacted communities across British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. It was one of the costliest natural disasters in Alberta’s history and cost billions in total damages. CH researchers talked to media about the flood event, what has been learned and the continued research efforts to understand the future frequency and severity of such events.

CH Remembers Ric Janowicz

From John Pomeroy:

Ric Janowicz was Senior Hydrologist for Yukon Environment, a Senior Research Fellow with the Centre for Hydrology, research collaborator with the Global Water Futures and the Changing Cold Regions Network research programs and hydrology graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, University of Alaska and UBC.  He had been phasing into retirement after a long career as the principal Hydrologist for Yukon since 1985.  Rick was the iconic Northern Hydrologist – he conducted northern water and climate research with a unique flair, making many discoveries and many dozens of publications, promoting research in the North through the establishment of Wolf Creek Research Basin in 1992 and by hosting many conferences in Yukon such as the Northern River Basins in 1991, IP3 in 2009, the Wolf Creek 5th and 25th Anniversary Workshops, and several River Ice Workshops.  In research, Ric was not bothered about severe weather or adversity, he would be visiting field stations, stream gauging or snow surveying at very remote locations in weather conditions that most scientists would not be able to cope with.  He also knew how to get back safely at the end of the day.  He cut through impediments to research that could be logistical, administrative or other and simply got things done as he thought they should.  Ric was particularly well known for his famous hospitality to any scientist who wished to conduct research in the Yukon.  He would welcome them to Whitehorse, invite them to his house for gourmet supper, tell them about local races, skiing and music opportunities, and possibly an evening around the fire, take them up into remote mountain locations that required expert local knowledge and direct them towards research topics that were important to understanding, conserving, protecting and predicting Yukon’s water resources. Rick promoted and contributed to the development of hydrological models suited for the North and for cold regions hydrology so as to better assess and predict the water resources of the North.  He also communicated science results to the public very effectively, often in an urgent flood forecast.  He designed the dyke that protects Dawson City and advised much of the current road, industrial and community infrastructure in Yukon so that it is safer from flooding and climate change.  One of his legacies is the new Yukon flood forecasting system – developed at his insistence and with his guidance.  He was especially renowned for assessment of climate change impacts on hydrology, river ice breakup mechanics and for a remarkably successful record of predicting floods in Yukon.  The understanding of climate change impacts on Yukon’s water, snow and permafrost has had substantial contributions from his research and his early recognition of the massive threat that climate change posed to the North.  Rick was recently honoured by the Yukon Legislature for his accomplishments in running Wolf Creek for a quarter century of science and his general contributions to Northern Hydrology.  His hundreds of colleagues from across Canada and around the world respected him greatly and will miss him.  They do not make hydrologists like Ric any more.  As for the future of cold regions hydrology?  It must carry on to honour his memory by taking the best advice from Ric himself – “there is no holding back now”.

A celebration of life is scheduled for June 21.

In the news:

Colleagues remember Yukon hydrologist Rick Janowicz – Yukon News

Yukon loses respected flood forecaster – Whitehorse Daily Star

CH PhD Student Awarded Engineers Canada Scholarship

Congratulations to CH PhD student Holly Annand who has been awarded the 2018 TD Insurance Meloche Monnex scholarship, which has a value of $7500, by Engineers Canada. This scholarship will be presented on Thursday, February 28, 2019 in Ottawa, ON.

Holly’s research is focused on the changing prairie hydrology by modelling the influence of climate change and wetland drainage. She is studying under the supervision of Dr John Pomeroy and Dr. Howard Wheater, CERC Emeritus in Water Security.

CH PhD Student Awarded CWRA Scholarship

Congratulations to CH PhD student Holly Annand who has been awarded the 2018 Memorial Scholarship, which has a value of $1500, by Canadian Water Resources Association (CWRA).

Holly’s research is focused on the changing prairie hydrology by modelling the influence of climate change and wetland drainage. She is studying under the supervision of Dr John Pomeroy and Dr. Howard Wheater, CERC Emeritus in Water Security.

Conference Draws Top Climate Scientists

The CH and Global Institute for Water Security co-hosted the 8th Annual GEWEX (Global Energy and Water Exchanges project) Conference in Canmore, Alberta. With nearly 400 attended from 44 countries including some of the top climate scientists to share research outcomes, projects, and understanding of key global issues arising from Earth’s changing climate. 

An article on this conference was in the Rocky Mountain Outlook – you can read it here:

CH Researcher Raised Concerns Years Before BC Flood

Research by CH Paul Whitfield was featured in The Georgia Straight on flooding in the Kettle and Granby rivers which caused about 3,000 people to evacuate their homes in the Grand Forks, BC area.

A research paper by Paul Whitfield and others back in 1998, Evidence of climate change effects on the hydrology of streams in south-central BC, looked streamflow records from six watersheds in southern BC to identify changes that may be associated with climate change. The study found that “spring runoff starts earlier, late summer–early fall flows are lower, and early winter flows are higher with a warmer climate” and that “These changes were found to be statistically significant and are consistent with the hydrological impacts currently expected with global climate change”.

To read the full article:

High Snowpack Level Won’t Necessarily Lead to Flooding

With snowpacks in the southern Canadian Rocky Mountains above to much above average normal (120%-144%), there is a rising concern for flooding as temperatures warm during the spring.

But John Pomeroy states that there isn’t a major concern for flooding – yet. The long-term forecast is still calling for a cooler spring, which means the snow in the mountains will likely melt slower this year. In addition, snowmelt alone has never driven flooding in Calgary and it would take a large rain-on-snow event to cause flooding. “With a changing climate, we can experience unprecedented weather extremes so it is important to stay vigilant, ” says John Pomeroy.

Read more:


Water Resources Warnings for Canada from Cape Town

Writing in The Conversation, CH and Global Water Futures Director Dist. Prof. John Pomeroy has discussed the risk of extreme impacts related to water resources – in the form of drought, floods, adverse water quality and wildfires – in Canada.This post offers a synopsis of the article, which is available in full here.

In recent years, rationing has been implemented as a temporary solution to water shortages in several major cities and conurbations across the country. Such measures have yet to attain the extreme constraints currently being experienced in Cape Town, South Africa, but this may only be a matter of time. Where shifting meteorological patterns driven by anthropogenic climate-change diminish snow and rain, shortages are likely to become more intense and frequent, and will translate into increased wildfire risk, poor water-quality, and major impacts on agricultural and ecological systems.

At the other end of the scale, widespread settlement and development along major rivers, together with increasing occurrences of intense or extended rainstorms, has increased the potential for damaging flood events.

In Canada, disruption to the key contributions made by seasonal snowpack and glaciers is a particular cause for concern.

With many hitherto “unusual” weather events increasing in frequency as atmospheric and oceanic warming continues and meteorological systems respond, methods previously applied to gauge the risks of drought and flood are rapidly becoming obsolete.

In the light of such challenges, improvements in water security in Canada could be achieved by:

  1. Improving integration and coordination of water governance, planning and services, by developing national-scale capabilities to forecast floods, droughts, water quality and water supply.
  2. Working to reduce flood damage through more active and integrated river basin water management, calculating future flood risk and restricting development in future flood zones.
  3. Reassessment of infrastructure, and capabilities to manage and store water, in expectation of droughts longer and more severe than any previously experienced.
  4. Managing the cumulative effects of development within watersheds, thereby reducing the contamination of lakes and rivers, so that the water is safe to drink and sustains aquatic ecosystems.

This in turn will depend on moving away from the mosaic of local, regional, provincial and federal authorities which currently manages water governance, and establishing more coordinated, inclusive and effective services within a national water security strategy. The Global Water Futures program seeks to drive progress towards these goals, both nationally and internationally.

Canada Not Immune to Water Shortages

In the wake of a water crisis in Cape Town, Dist. Prof. John Pomeroy talked to CBC News about the rising risk of water shortages in Western Canada. In a country known for its abundance of fresh water, Canadian scientists warn that some communities could face their own water crisis in the not-so-distant future.

Read the CBC article here.

For a more in-depth look at the water risks Canada is facing, read John Pomeroy’s article in the Conversation.


Researchers Use More Precise Models to Better Predict the Water Future

Western and Northern Canada has experienced some of the highest rates of warming anywhere in the world. This warming has affected various aspects of the environment, from increased rainfall in the winter months to changes in the magnitude and timing of streamflow across the region.

As the Changing Cold Regions Network comes to an end in March 2018, researchers have improved models at both small and large scales to better predict what the future may hold under more changing climatic and environmental conditions. These models have been used to evaluate changes in the Mackenzie and Saskatchewan River basins and included work from 40 scientists from eight universities who worked with four federal agencies.

More information can be read in a National Post article here.

A short documentary film on the research conducted during the Changing Cold Regions Network can be viewed here.