Get used to it: Southern Manitoba summers to get hotter due to climate change, expert says

As southern Manitoba sweats through the dog days of summer, a local climate expert says a higher number of 30 C days per summer is expected to be the new normal in coming years — and the average is only going to rise after that.

Region will experience 25 days of 30 C heat or higher by 2030: climatologist

Up to Aug. 5, southern Manitoba had already experienced 13 days that were 30 Cor hotter, compared with three such days up to the same date in 2017. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

As southern Manitoba sweats through the dog days of summer, a local climate expert says a higher number of 30 C days is expected to be the new normal for the season in coming years — and the average is only going to rise after that.

As of Thursday, southern Manitoba had already experienced 18 days with a recorded temperature of 30 C or higher, compared with the annual average of 13.3 days, according to Environment Canada.

Danny Blair, a geographer and climatologist at the Prairie Climate Centre, says by the 2030s, the local average will be 25 days of 30 C heat or higher. By the 2050s, it will be around 40 days.

Thanks to the province's geography, Blair says, Manitoba will experience average temperature increases roughly double the global predictions of one or two degrees.

"We're in a part of the world and a part of North America where we will have enhanced global warming, so to speak," Blair said.

Climate is a concept that not everybody really gets.- Danny Blair, a geographer and climatologist 

"Not everybody gets the same rise in temperatures. Canada and Manitoba and especially the High Arctic of Canada, we get a lot more heating than the world on average."

Rising temperatures  — combined with drier summers and a predicted 40-per-cent increase in rainfall during the snowmelt flood months of March, April and May — will have a major impact on things such as agriculture, Blair says.

He says something "surprising and dramatic" must happen to deal with the effects of climate change. 

"Climate change is maybe not slow, maybe not steady. It may happen in jumps and starts," Blair said. "It's coming. We have to get ready for it."

'Adaptation requires planning'

The impact of climate change in Manitoba is already showing in the province's agriculture, Blair says, pointing to the proliferation of heat-loving corn as a crop.

Some of Manitoba's progressive farmers are already thinking about how much wetter springs and hotter, drier summers could affect their crop selection, he says.
Danny Blair, a geographer and climatologist at the Prairie Climate Centre, said Manitoba is expected to see an average of roughly 40 days with recorded temperatures of 30 C or higher by the 2050s. (Submitted by Danny Blair)

"We're pretty darn smart, especially our farmers are really good at adaptation," he said.

"But adaptation requires planning. There may be some really substantial changes to the way that we live on the land. We need to start to think about that more seriously than we have been of late."

Blair says he's already seeing promising indications of planning for climate change from the federal and provincial governments, but he'd like to see even more.

He says he understands why members of the general public may still be having a hard time wrapping their minds around the idea that their climate is changing.

"We're in tune with the weather more often than the climate," Blair said. "Climate is a concept that not everybody really gets.

"We look outside or we go outside and we experience weather and we don't necessarily see any immediate, dramatic changes. But the climate models and the climatologists such as myself tell people that this is really coming, and it doesn't really resonate with their lives."

Barring any dramatic changes to global carbon emissions — which Blair says he doesn't foresee any time soon — Manitobans should be thinking about climate change more, he says.

"We need to take advantage of that when it's a good thing and minimize the effects when it's a bad thing."

With files from CBC Manitoba's Information Radio, Marcy Markusa and Aviva Jacob