“We’ve come to a point of no return in this province, because of the sheer amount of clear-cut logging they’ve been doing over the last 20 years. The damage is already done.”

– Younes Alila, Prof. Forest Hydrology, University of British Columbia

Drought Flood Drought

The new normal has already been here for a while

Global warming is driving an epic drought in Canada’s so called “wet coast” as rivers and streams dry up and salmon die. The drought is rated at level 5, which means the conditions are driving measurable economic adversity. At least one community has declared a state of emergency. In Victoria, the provincial capital, 2mm of rain have fallen over the past six months, a drop in the bucket compared to the 220 mm normally expected.

The area is also experiencing mass salmon die-offs and hundreds of forest fires as heat records continue to fall. Hydroelectric operations are also being affected.  

This event follows last year’s catastrophic flooding, which triggered mudslides and destroyed infrastructure, houses and highways. Interestingly, those highly unusual events from a year ago are an indirect cause of the current drought emergency: the massive quantities of rain at high elevations washed away a foot and a half of snowpack, depleting the expected annual ground water recharge.

Other human activities combine to worsen the effects of the drought, especially industrial scale clear cutting of forests. The replacement forests – which are essentially crops – take up considerably more water than the ancient trees did. Overall transpiration is decreased, putting less moisture into the atmosphere.