PEI·CLIMATE CHANGE

Researchers using drones to document, study impact of Dorian on P.E.I.

Researchers with the UPEI Climate Lab are using drone technology to get a rare glimpse from high above the devastation caused by Dorian.

'Make ourselves more resilient by preventing those impacts or at least lessening the damage'

The UPEI Climate Lab and Parks Canada are using drones to capture footage of the damage done by post-tropical storm Dorian. (UPEI Climate Lab)

Researchers with the UPEI Climate Lab are using drone technology to get a rare glimpse from high above the devastation caused by Dorian.

The drone is capturing stunning images and videos of damage to Cavendish Campground, Cavendish's main beach and farms across the province after the post-tropical storm devastated Prince Edward Island last weekend and knocked out power for many communities.

"If something terrible like this is going to happen anyway, we should take advantage as a learning opportunity and I think most importantly, is find out as much data as we can on the impact," said Stephanie Arnold, lead researcher with the lab.

"So that we can make ourselves more resilient by preventing those impacts or at least lessening the damage of those impacts."

Drones have been in the air at various locations across the Island to allow researchers to quickly — and safely — assess damage from the storm.

The dunes at Cavendish Beach were significantly changed by Dorian, as a number of them were sheared right off because of the storm surge. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

"We're trying to capture as many footage as we can of the storm so that we can help farmers and the parks manage the aftermath," Arnold said. "There's only so many flying days that we have, so we have all of our teams out flying as much as we can all over the Island."

Arnold said while the view from the ground after a devastating storm like Dorian is heartbreaking, it's the view from the sky that's more revealing, particularly in Cavendish Beach in P.E.I. National Park.

"The dunes look completely different," Arnold said. "A lot of them, it looks like it was sheared right off, it was just a straight shear as opposed to a nice, soft dune."

This aerial shot shows the damage to a wheat field near Kinkora caused by post-tropical storm Dorian. (UPEI Climate Lab)

Staff have also been using the drones to survey damage to crops done by Dorian. 

Information collected by the team will be shared with Parks Canada and farmers to help them adapt to extreme weather events and the impacts that storms like Dorian can have.

Researchers Stephanie Arnold and Luke Meloche, with the UPEI Climate Lab, are using drones to document damage caused by Dorian and to help better prepare for the next extreme weather event. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

"There are scientists working on creating new varieties," said Arnold. "In the meantime, I'm also looking at how we can maybe manage our farm practices a little bit differently to prepare for really extreme weather events. There is some ways, maybe managing water. It's something we have to get better at just because the extremes are going to swing so widely and it's so unpredictable that it's not going to be easy."

Researchers said they plan to do a before and after comparison of Cavendish Campground and the main beach.

"We've captured footage of Cavendish main beach prior and now we have one for after," Arnold said. "We have some before and after of farms as well. We've been so busy flying drones that we haven't had time in the office to do the analysis yet, but we're all very interested in how we can assess the damage."

Information gathered by the UPEI Climate Lab team will be shared with Parks Canada and farmers to help them adapt to extreme weather events. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

The research team will also fly over agricultural fields in Kings County to see if the rain caused any wash outs.

"It's never fun to do post-storm assessment, but the fact that we have drones that we can use to gather data, it really helps us take a look at coastal changes, changes on farms and other ways of really better managing and preparing for weather events like this," Arnold said.

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About the Author

Tom Steepe

Video Journalist

Tom Steepe is an award-winning video journalist with CBC P.E.I.

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