Ottawa River Flooding: Human Error vs. Act of God?

Ottawa River Flooding: Human Error vs. Act of God? // Published on May 16, 2017

Record low water levels were reported in the Des Joachim reservoir 235 km north of the Britannia Bay water gauge in Ottawa. I estimated the volume of water in this 70 km long stretch of river (average 1 km width) for a 2.5 foot dump, which would create an estimated 3 hour long water pulse.

The Ottawa water gauge measured abrupt spikes upward on Saturday May 6th, with a rapid rise in water level of 1 cm every 5 minutes for 100 minutes, and then 1 cm every 12 minutes for 60 minutes, overwhelming river houses. The volume of water in the water spike over a subsequent 18 hours matches that in the northern reservoir between Klock & Rolphton. Hmmm…

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Ottawa River Flood: Human and Natural Elements, Three Videos

Ottawa River Flood: Human & Natural Elements, Part 1 // Published on May 15, 2017

Whenever a “natural disaster” occurs, like the severe flooding recently in Ontario and Quebec, there are many questions. Did it have to happen? Could humans have responded differently to reduce the damage, or did the response worsen the problem?

I examine these questions and many others by looking at the geography of the river as it flows southward from northern watersheds.

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Ottawa River Flood, Part 2 / Published on May 15, 2017

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Ottawa River Flood. Part 3 / Published on May 15, 2017

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Record Ottawa River Flooding From Climate Change

Record Ottawa River Flooding From Climate Change // Published on May 8, 2017

In July, 2013 downtown Calgary had record flooding with insured losses exceeding $6 Billion. Three weeks later, extensive Toronto flooding from torrential rains cost more than $1 Billion.

Now it is Ottawa’s turn, along with Gatineau and Montreal and many other regions in Ontario and Quebec.

It is surprisingly simple to connect all these events, although you may not like the explanation.
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Paul is quoted, in The National Observer here:  ‘Here are the climate science benchmarks of the Quebec floods‘:

We’re in a Climate Change Emergency
Such extreme weather is much more likely now because of climate change, scientists say.  As the greenhouse gas effect warms the planet, they say floods, droughts, mudslides and other extreme weather events are expected to occur more often, and with greater ferocity.

“Climate change is a global problem, but the reason we care about it is because it’s impacting us in the places where we live,” said Katharine Hayhoe, a Canadian who is the co-director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University.  “It’s taking these weather patterns that we’ve seen before and…putting them on steroids, so to speak.”


Paul Beckwith, who works on climatology in the Department of Geography at the University of Ottawa, also said flooding is being exacerbated by the “whiplash” of extremely wet or dry weather that is the result of climate change [Clausius-Clapeyron rate].

We’re getting a lot more extreme weather events around the planet, whether that be torrential rains leading to flooding, or really hot and dry temperatures leading to drought,” he said.

These extreme weather events are much more severe, much more intense, they last longer, they’re happening more frequently, and they’re happening in areas where they didn’t happen before.”


Rapidly rising water comes dangerously close on May 8, 2017 to the Chaudière Bridge near the Canadian War Museum on the Ottawa River. Photo by Alex Tétreault

He said the root cause was that the Arctic was warming faster than any other global hotspot. As white sea ice and snow cover give way to darker permafrost or open ocean, the process accelerates.

I’ve been saying we’re in a climate change emergency, and therefore we have to respond as if it’s in an emergency,” he said.

That means eliminating fossil fuel emissions, a major driver of climate change, as a very first step, Beckwith added.

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Flooding ‘Tip of the Iceberg,’ Climate Scientist Warns


A car sits stranded in flood waters on Rue Saint-Louis in Gatineau on Tuesday, May 2. (Radio-Canada)

Here Paul was picked up by CBC Television, and has an associated podcast clip (about six minutes long) which they shared with him, and likely more to follow tomorrow, possibly nationally. There are several parts to this, and all dovetail. Simply shared thus:

Gatineau flooding ‘tip of the iceberg,’ climate scientist warns.
And “Region received more than 3 times normal rainfall for April”.

From CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning · CBC News, 10 Hours Ago:
“As water levels continue to rise in the national capital region, a climate scientist is warning flooding and extreme weather events are here to stay, and says homeowners should prepare.

Swollen rivers and streams have threatened hundreds of homes in the Outaouais thanks to recent heavy rainfall — three times the normal amount since April 1.

University of Ottawa climate scientist Paul Beckwith says that’s due to a changing climate, and says we’re seeing its effects “on a day-to-day basis” in weather patterns.

What we can see is that the jet streams are behaving differently. They’re much slower, wavier, and storms are therefore moving slower. So when they’re carrying water, they’re hovering over an area longer than they would be normally, so they’re depositing more water,” Beckwith told host Hallie Cotnam on CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning.

Normally you think of climate change as being something that’s happening over 20 or 30 years. But what we’re seeing is the conditions on the planet are changing rapidly. So the arctic is a lot warmer than it used to be, so that’s throwing off the heat balance on the whole planet.”

Tip of the iceberg
Beckwith points to an increase in extreme weather events across North America as proof. “We’ve changed the chemistry of the atmosphere and the oceans with our greenhouse gases, so we’re seeing the consequences of this now,” he added. “It’s only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.”

Paul Beckwith is a climate scientist with the University of Ottawa. (CBC)
Voluntary evacuations and road closures have been underway in Gatineau and other west Quebec municipalities this week due to floods. As flood water creeps closer to homes, Beckwith warns this could become more regular occurrence for people who live near rivers or in low-lying areas.

I think in the very near future, the elevation of a house will be on the MLS [real estate] system,” he said. “So when you buy a house, you’ll know the local elevation. So houses that are on higher ground will command higher prices. Houses on lower ground — if you flood now, you’re going to flood in the future.”

“…It’s just a matter of time before it happens to just about any city the way climate change is accelerating.”
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Despite a day of sandbagging, Ward’s Island residents may still need to evacuate.
Ferry will be kept overnight on standby at Ward’s Dock for ‘after-hours storm and temporary shelter’.

‘With Lake Ontario at its highest point in decades and with heavy rain already falling, the City of Toronto is preparing for a possible evacuation of Toronto Island Park.  But its residents have spent the day laying sandbags around low-lying areas in the hope they can stay in their homes.  Between 40 and 90 millimetres of rain could fall on Toronto between Thursday evening and Saturday, according to Environment Canada — a figure the weather agency increased after the storm began.  Article continues in full, here.
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Shoreline and flood worries as wind and rain hit Hamilton and region.
High water levels may lead to some shoreline flooding and beach erosion.

A flood watch is in effect for Hamilton as the city and much of southern Ontario brace for several more days of rain.

The Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) says this forecasted rainfall may result in further increases in water levels and flows in area watercourses, with the potential for significant flooding.

There is further concern about the potential impacts of northerly winds on the shores of Lake Ontario. Those winds may increase the risk of shoreline flooding and erosion, with Lake Ontario levels already high.

The latest rainfall — from Thursday through to Saturday — comes on top of records numbers for the year so far.

This has been a record rainy first 125 days of a year, never has there been so much rain in that period in the Hamilton area,” said Dave Phillips, Environment Canada.  Phillips says Hamilton has received about 87 per cent more rain than the city would normally get so far this year.  Article continues in full, here.

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To Flood or Not to Flood; Assess YOUR Risks

Published on May 4, 2017
I teach you the basics of how to assess your personal risk of being flooded out of your place, either from nearby river or ocean rise or overland flooding with torrential rains.

There are some basic easy-to-use tools on the web that will let you figure out your risks. These include climographs of your region, local weather forecasts, stream and river flow gauges and forecasts, DEM (Digital Elevation Models) or detailed maps of hills and valleys in your region, types of soils, and historical data on flood occurrences, etc.


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People’s Climate March: Emergency Call to Action

Go Paul!  People’s Climate March; Emergency Call to Action // Published on Apr 29, 2017

I marched in Ottawa’s version of The People’s Climate March. In this video; in my speech to the masses rallying before the start of the march, I summarize some of the main reasons we all (You and I) need to call on the public and politicians to recognize and act with immediate haste to deal with our ongoing global climate emergency, while we still can.

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Climate Change Making Storms More Intense, Changing Jet Stream

How climate change is making storms more intense

‘Massive flooding in Windsor last year was a sign of climate change — but the science behind these ever-intensifying storms is more complex than it seems’ …

The Ontario Educational Communications Authority (TVO) profiled Paul, further down page, here:

The Changing jet stream

Cyclonic storms are moved by air currents called jet streams. The currents in Ontario are created when cold air from the north collides with warm air from the south.

“The jet stream or winds in the mid-levels of the atmosphere help guide low pressure systems as they move across North America,” says Geoff Coulson, an Environment Canada climatologist. “Every once in a while the winds in the mid-level of atmosphere will slacken off and will be in an area where there isn’t much push. This low-pressure system basically sat in that area to the south of Windsor and kept pumping moisture.”

Both poles are heating up faster than the equator is, and that’s contorting the jet stream, lowering its speed and increasing its waviness — it typically travels east-west, but waviness makes it travel north-south sometimes.

The Arctic is warming faster, Beckwith explains, because as the sea ice melts, it exposes more ocean. Since the ocean is darker than ice, it absorbs more heat — which causes more ice to melt, which exposes still more dark surfaces. Similarly, less snow cover on land exposes more dark ground.

There are more and more examples occurring all around the world of these torrential rain events where a region or a city will get four to five months of rainfall and they get it in a night or they get it in a couple days,” Beckwith says. “And that leads to flooding because the infrastructure just can’t handle it.”

The changing jet streams have influenced not just storms but other catastrophic weather events too, Beckwith says. The European heat wave of 2003, the 2010 Russian drought, and the recent California drought were all caused by jet-stream oddities.

Beckwith says storms like that in Windsor are going to keep happening as the temperature difference between the poles and the equator continues to shrink. “We’re heading rapidly to an arctic with less sea ice and much less snow cover,” he explains. “The extreme weather events that we’re seeing will get much worse.”’
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And Paul’s third recent video, in series: Abrupt Climate Changes in Global Atmospheric Circulation // Published on Apr 13, 2017

How is ABRUPT CLIMATE CHANGE presently shifting our global atmospheric circulation patterns? We know jet streams are slower & wavier, greatly increasing the frequency, severity & duration of extreme weather events (flooding, droughts, with intensified risk to global food supply).

Will the present 3-cell behaviour (Hadley, Ferrel, Polar) mutate to a 2-cell or 1-cell pattern? Will there even be a jet stream?

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