Heat wave that killed 93 in Quebec is second-biggest weather story of 2018
Published Thursday, December 20, 2018 1:09PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 20, 2018 3:13PM EST
Environment Canada has put out its list of the top weather stories of the year, and a deadly heat wave that killed nearly 100 in Quebec is the second story on that list.
Extreme weather are no longer unusual, and warm temperatures this year -- including at night, preventing any relief -- settled into various regions across the country.
Attendance at the July 1 celebrations on Parliament Hill were down to 6,000 because of the heat, while emergency measures were in place in Montreal and other parts of Quebec.
"It was about the third or fourth warmest summer on record, but what shocked me was it was a heat advisory from coast to coast to coast," said chief Environment Canada meteorologist Dave Phillips.
"We saw records tumble everywhere in Canada. Temperatures that have stood for 135 years were smashed by this particular heat wave."
Quebec saw the most deaths of any province.
"We saw 93 deaths in Quebec from a July that was the hottest on record, very hot nights," said Phillips.
Western forest fires
The wildfires that plagued western Canada were the lead story for Environment Canada.
It was the number one story last year as well, but this year a greater swath of territory was burned.
British Columbia had three times the normal number of fires the province generally has according to Environment Canada, largely sparked by lightning.
There were more than 250,000 lightning strikes in southern British Columbia between April and August. On one day alone there were 20,000.
By Aug 15, 566 fires had started and the province issued a state of emergency. But it was the smoke from those fires that really stood out, spreading as far as Europe.
People in Calgary said the air tasted like a smouldering campfire and there were hundreds of hours of smoke and haze warnings.
It was more polluted than in Beijing, causing health problems for millions of people across the country..
Disappearance of spring and fall
But it wasn't all smoke and heat. Phillips said the No. 3 story was the disappearance of spring and fall.
Winter careened into summer, then summer careened back to winter, said Phillips, referring to what he calls "weather whiplash."
"(It's) the almost non-existence of the transition seasons."
A long, cold spring kept frost in the ground as deep as two metres in some places, which meant a late start to the crop year for farmers. Then, with the fields ready in August and a nice start to the harvest, unprecedented snow crushed hopes.
More than $4 billion worth of crop was flattened under record snowfall.
In Edmonton, September was almost seven degrees colder than normal. The city received more than 38 centimetres of snow in a month where the norm is one.
Calgary shared the pain in October when a 38-centimetre dump over two days broke a 138-year record.
Like most climatologists, Phillips is circumspect about blaming any one weather event on climate change, but he did say that despite a long, colder-than-normal winter, Canada was again slightly warmer than usual -- the 22nd year in a row of above-normal temperatures.
He also pointed out that Environment Canada scientists say the risk of western fires since 2015 has at least doubled due to human-induced warming and could be up to six times higher.
"Scientists have kind of shown the fact that these things are directly related to human activity," he said.
Phillips has been drawing up Top 10 weather lists for 23 years. Some years, he confesses, there wasn't much to talk about.
"There weren't a lot of things happening back then. Summers were hot, winters were cold.
"In 23 years, it has changed," he said.
"The weather's gotten weird and wild and wacky and variable. The climate has changed."
- With files from The Canadian Press