A UPEI researcher says although data collected during post-tropical storm Fiona suggests extreme weather is becoming more common, long-term data is needed to get a more accurate picture of weather patterns and the impact of climate change.
Still, Islanders should be prepared for more frequent intense storms just incase.
“There are a lot of uncertainties when it comes to this,” said Xander Wang, the director of the Climate Smart Lab at UPEI.
Roughly 40 people attended a panel discussion on climate adaptation Tuesday night. It was hosted through Charlottetown’s environmental and sustainability department.
The goal was to educate residents on climate change and give them strategies to protect their homes in future storms. Wang was one of the four speakers at the event.
“We showed some results during Fiona. Both the extreme wind and also, you know, storm surge to give them a sense about how severe this storm was,” he said.
“Based on the short-term observation, we do see some new records which we have never seen before.”
Adaptation and mitigation
The data Wang showed the audience included a 153 km/h wind gust in Orwell.
“At least 20 stations monitored over 120 km/h wind gust,” he said. “That’s something really shocking me this time because I [didn’t] expect it would be that strong.”
He also included a graph displaying a two-metre storm surge in Red Head. Shortly after that information was recorded, he said the station blew away in the wind.
There are precautions people can take to be better prepared next time. For example, he suggests taking coastal erosion into consideration before building a new home.
But Wang stresses that although adapting to the changing climate is important, taking steps to mitigate climate change altogether is crucial.
“Install solar panels, heat pump,” he said. “These kinds of investments can help us to reduce greenhouse gases and also increase the resilience of your own properties.”
‘It will look good in a few years’
Tara Callaghan, a landscape architect with Haute Nature Design also gave a presentation.
“I think one important thing is just understanding that after destruction we will see a flourishing of creativity, a flourishing of life,” she said.
“Although it’s heartbreaking in so many ways what’s been revealed is an understory of new species, new saplings that are going to thrive and flourish.”
Thousands of trees were knocked down in the storm and Islanders have been busy for weeks trying to clean them all up. But according to Callaghan, it’s okay to leave some behind if it’s safe.
“Dead trees have a purpose,” she said.
“It’s going to create important habitat, it’s going to renourish the soil … It might be a bit of an eyesore for a little while, but it will look good in a few years.”
‘Need to do more work’
When Islanders do start to replant, Callaghan suggests planting a variety of ages, species and heights “so that we have something that is more adaptive and resilient mimicking the natural processes.”
As for Wang, he said his goal is to continue monitoring the climate on P.E.I. long-term to get a clearer understanding about the weather in this region so Islanders know what to expect.
“Under warming temperature, warming climate, there are a lot of uncertainties associated with wind, precipitation,” he said.
“We still need to do more work to increase accuracy. Then … provide more accurate information to Islanders to make more appropriate adaptation measures in the future.”