Okanagan climate projections call for more extreme weather

Fires, floods, rain, heat

Climate change is affecting the Okanagan – and regional politicians are preparing for a future with even greater impacts.

The Okanagan can expect increased flooding, more wildfires and extreme weather, according to a climate projections report prepared for the Regional Districts of the North, Central and Okanagan-Similkameen.

"Climate change is challenging our ecosystems, communities, and our economy. Wildfires, flooding, and drought have already challenged local infrastructure, caused economic losses, and posed health risks to communities," the districts said in a joint statement.

The regional governments partnered with the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium and Pinna Sustainability to develop projections for the region.  

The report is intended to inform regional planning on how to prepare for future climate events as far ahead as the 2080s. Expected changes to the Okanagan climate in coming decades include:

  • Warmer temperatures year-round.
  • Summers will be considerably hotter.
  • Increased duration of growing season.
  • Warmer winter temperatures.
  • Increased precipitation across all seasons except summer.
  • Summer is expected to remain the driest season, and become drier.
  • We can expect shifting seasons.

In the past, the Okanagan experienced just under a week per year, on average, of days above 30 C. By the 2050s, we can expect more than three weeks of blistering heat – and over five weeks by the 2080s, the report projects.

Winter lows are expected to increase from coldest temperatures of about -25 C today to -19 C by the 2050s and -15 C by the 2080s.

And precipitation is projected to increase between 10% and 20% during that time span, with the largest increases in spring and fall.

“This report is one of the most important tools we have in preparing for our future as a region,” said Kevin Acton, RDNO Chair. “We need action now, and through this report, we have a clearer idea of what to expect and how to adapt for the longevity of our communities.”

"The modelling projections ... will help local governments prepare for a range of possible scenarios," says RDOS Chair Karla Kozakevich. "This report will also provide valuable data about the potential environmental and economic challenges impacting the Okanagan in the coming decades."

RDCO Chair Gail Given adds: “We’ve all seen the impact climate change is having on our environment and economy. The Climate Projections Report lays the groundwork for everyone to respond and act in a meaningful way to help mitigate the potential challenges in the years ahead.”

The full report can be accessed on the RDNO website

A public launch of the report will be held with speaker Sheila Watt-Cloutier Feb. 26 at the UBC Okanagan Commons Lecture Hall at 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online

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