As Canadians, the one thing we tend to talk about more than hockey, Tim Hortons, and maple syrup is the weather, which is why the term climate change often triggers a response from almost everyone. Buzzword or not, there’s no denying weather isn’t what it was ten or even five years ago. We’ve seen it with storms like Harvey, Irma and Maria, the Snow Cyclone, and flooding that’s occurred in countless parts of the country – and those are just in the last year!
To get a clearer understanding on the changes taking place and how we can better protect our homes, and ourselves, we sat down with David Phillips, Senior Climatologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada.
“We fasten our seatbelts when we get into our cars to minimize the risk, we need to do the same with our homes and the weather.”
How is weather changing?
DP: Extreme weather happens when warm air and cold air duke it out. What we are seeing now is that the duration and intensity of that battle is likely happening more frequently. Rainstorms that used to last a day now go on for two or three. Regions and seasons across Canada have warmed up over the last 70 years, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t seeing extreme cold periods too. These periods, throughout winter 2017-2018 for example, which we lovingly referred to as the ‘Polar Vortex’, plunged temperatures across the country for weeks at a time.
Is climate change to blame for extreme weather?
DP: People love to blame climate change for everything but weather is changing, not just the climate; they go hand-in-hand. Climate is changing faster than it has in years but the same can be said for day-to-day weather, which is evolving at a rapid and dramatic rate. There’s a reason we joke about seeing four seasons in one day here.
With all these weather-related changes, how can we plan ahead to ensure our homes are safe and secure?
DP: I think we often get caught up in the notion that what worked for previous generations will work for us. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Not only has weather become weirder, wackier and wilder, but we’ve changed too, likely more than the climate has. With less green space and more grey infrastructure, the land can’t absorb all the rainfall we’re experiencing.
All of these changes are a result of extreme weather, and though you can’t prevent hazardous weather conditions, Phillips explains there are ways to mitigate the effects and prevent it from becoming a disaster:
- Before you buy or build a home, learn all you can about the landscape around it. Your realtor and city can let you know if you’re living in or near a flood plain or if the area is prone to fires. Understanding what you’re working with is the first step to ensuring your property is properly protected.
- If you live in drier, fire-prone climate, consider equipping your roof with fire retardant shingles.
- You can help protect your home from windstorms by purchasing a property near a windbreak or shelterbelt (or by growing your own).
- Regardless of where you live, consider installing impact-resistant windows.
- Thinking of redoing your garden? Proper landscaping can help water drain away from your home, in an attempt to reduce your risk of infiltration.
- Installing sump pumps and back water valves (batter-equipped or battery operated) are also key to reducing your risk of water damage (see more advice to help protect your home from flooding).
- Have a conversation with your insurance provider and ensure you have the proper coverage. Some options aren’t part of your standard policy and may require additional endorsements.
Canadians have always been able to adapt to the weather; we take pride in that. The world is now learning what we’ve always known: weather can be extreme and variable. However, what we all need to understand and remember is that there are ways to safeguard against it and plan ahead.
You may not be able to control the weather, but you can do things to help reduce the risks.