How hot could Manitoba get with climate change? Pretty hot, say scientists

Winnipeg may lose its reputation for its dry cold in a few decades, swapping it out for dry heat instead.

Manitoba could see desert like temperatures by 2080 if carbon emissions aren’t curbed

The website was launched on Friday by the Prairie Climate Centre. The site shows various projections of what temperatures on the prairies could look like if climate change trends continue. (Getty Images/RooM RF)

Winnipeg may lose its reputation for its dry cold in a few decades, swapping it out for dry heat instead.

A really dry heat.

Research from the Prairie Climate Centre shows that by 2080, Winnipeg could see summer temperatures similar to those in parts of Texas, unless climate change is addressed.

Researchers from the centre launched a new website that illustrates the effects of climate change over time. 
Researcher and filmamker, Ian Mauro, demonstrated how to use the site on Friday. Mauro hopes that by providing scientific data in an easy to understand and visual format, community members will take action against climate change. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

It also has a user-friendly tool that can be tailored to see what changes might be in store for a specific location.

"Our tool allows you to look at the different regions, look at different municipalities across the prairies and figure out what it means for you," said Ian Mauro, a researcher and director of communications at the centre.

"This is the first time that resolution of detail at the community level has been made available," he said.

Users can track what weather will look like in a specific community in Manitoba in fifty years, then compare it to similar existing environments.

Prairies the 'canary in the coal mine' 

Mauro says the prairies are an important region to study as they already experience extreme temperature differences throughout the seasons. He says the prairies are warming much faster than the global average and how we respond to climate change here could have an impact on the rest of the globe.
Dave Pancoe, who manages projects like the Forks river trail, attended the website launch. He says a tool like this helps organizations plan for the type of weather conditions that coming generations will face. (Ryan Cheale/CBC)

"The prairies is the canary in the coal mine so to speak, with respect to the type of warming we are going to get, how intense, how quickly it's going to happen," said Mauro.

"And if we can create solutions at the prairie level, we can start to show people how to deal with this in other regions of the world," he said.

The site shows that if carbon emissions remain the same, by between 2051 and 2080, a community like Winnipeg may see 46 days above 30 degrees Celsius in a year. That's more than four times the current average of 11 days.

"We're going to be entering a very extreme type of climate. There's going to be more extreme weather, more increased droughts, more increased flooding, more increased forest fires," said Mauro.
The site includes maps and comparisons to other climates to illustrate the effects of climate change.

The creators of the site want the data to be used by all members of the community, from farmers, to forestry workers, to First Nations, and all levels of government. The data can be applied to things like changes in agriculture, winter roads, water resources, and disaster management.

"This is a tool for the country to figure out how to get on track," said Mauro.

No more winter river trail at The Forks? 

Dave Pancoe, manager of special projects at The Forks, coordinates seasonal attractions like building the river trail in the winter. He says the site offers an important resource when it comes to planning for the future.

"The next 30 years are going to be very different from the last 30 years," said Pancoe. "There could be a day when there won't be a [frozen] river trail. Maybe we will be riding the water bus year round, who knows?" he said.

Pancoe says it's important for organizations like his to be able to build and plan infrastructure for the kind of climate future generations will inherit.

Pancoe is exactly the type of user the climate centre is hoping to reach. Ian Mauro hopes once people get involved on an individual and community level, change will be sought at higher levels of government.

"We've got commitments at the Paris Agreement to get our warming curtailed at two degrees globally, and if you take a look at the data we are providing, we are going to blow past that by mid-century if we don't seriously get our act in order," said Mauro.