Atmospheric rivers overlooked by B.C. agencies amid information gap
The term “atmospheric river” is familiar to meteorologists and climatologists, but government agencies and policymakers in B.C. were largely unaware of the phenomenon until the recent flooding and mudslide devastation, despite a years-old report highlighting issues around research and awareness.
CTV News has obtained a 2014 report, titled “Atmospheric Rivers State of Knowledge Report,” that described an information gap when it came to understanding how they impacted the province in terms of damage and risk of damage, as well as how to better understand potential future impacts.
It suggests more meteorological surveillance through stations, radar, soil moisture gauges, and even drones flying in the systems because until that point, the available data “lacks the finer grain detail that would enable meaningful local analysis” in British Columbia.
"That was always the big worry with atmospheric rivers: When is one of these going to be impolite enough to land in the worst place possible? And that's exactly what we saw," explained David Jones, a meteorologist who served as Environment Canada warning preparedness meteorologist for the South Coast until 2017.
He attended a 2013 workshop alongside representatives from various federal and provincial ministries, as well as BC Hydro, municipal stakeholders and some American scientists.
“Here we are eight years later and nothing has been done, effectively,” said Jones, describing Environment Canada and government staff as slow to adapt and react to critical new information.
B.C.'s public safety minister announced Saturday that due to the destructive atmospheric rivers, the country’s meteorological agency would be fast-tracking a ranking system for the systems, much like those used for hurricanes and tornadoes.
OTHER REPORTS HAVE ATMOSPHERIC RIVER BLIND SPOTS
Atmospheric rivers have been bringing systems of moderate-to-heavy and consistent rainfall to the west coast of North America forever, but experts point out the route this one took through the South Coast was unusual and destructive.
While experts are familiar with the concept, the information gap identified in the 2014 report appears to persist today.
The mammoth 429-page “Preliminary Strategic Climate Risk Assessment for British Columbia” published in 2019 references atmospheric rivers only briefly, noting that our province is accustomed to consistent rainfall, while “California’s Mediterranean climate is more susceptible to episodic dry spells and atmospheric river-type precipitation events.”
This past spring, a report to the Fraser Basin Council, an organization working with dozens of municipalities in the Lower Mainland to prepare and respond to floods, didn’t include a single reference to atmospheric rivers, focusing instead on the potential for rivers overflowing with snowmelt and coastal water levels already rising due to climate change.
"There's no doubt that these extreme weather events are happening more frequently than ever before,” pointed out David Marshall, the not-for-profit’s CEO.
He acknowledged the group’s focus on major rivers and coastline didn’t account for the life-threatening risk the Nooksak River, a tributary waterway, posed to Abbotsford, nor the potential impacts of atmospheric rivers; he was under the impression that they are a new phenomenon, even though that’s not the case.
“Looking at flood management strategies is an extremely complex issue that has a number of different considerations associated with it and (atmospheric rivers are) a new one that we need to integrate into our work," said Marshall. “We may have to look at whether our diking infrastructure is adequate, policies to encourage less development in flood planes and flood-prone areas."
NO SILVER BULLET FOR UNUSUAL WEATHER PATTERNS
Jones pointed out that even with a ranking system or better understanding of atmospheric rivers, the unusual route this one took would’ve made it very difficult and likely impossible to avert the widespread destruction from flooding and landslides.
“Some of the rain gauges were probably wiped out by the storm, so we don’t know exactly what fell and where,” he said. “We don’t want to come to conclusions as to whether this was directly caused by climate change, or whether it was even the worst storm ever. We're going to need to look at the data and that takes time and the patience of proper professionals."
Jones lauded the many scientists and Environment Canada experts behind the scenes who’ve been working diligently to implement the categorization system, which may also be an element to help B.C. finally utilize an emergency text alert system used everywhere else in Canada.
Vancouver Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Trudeau decries 'fringe' views of some in trucker convoy, as police prepare for its arrival in Ottawa
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is decrying the 'fringe' views among some of those who are supporting the trucker convoy making its way to Parliament Hill to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other policies they feel infringe on their freedoms.
Indian police have detained six people in a crackdown on illegal immigration after four Indians were found frozen to death near the border between Canada and the U.S. last week, officials said on Thursday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday the extension of Operation UNIFIER for three years, and the deployment of 60 more troops to Ukraine in the coming days.
CTV News in Ukraine | 'If I'm called, I will go': Ukrainian reservist and former Voice contestant ready to fight Russian threat
CTV's Omar Sachedina speaks to a Ukrainian reservist and former contestant on Ukraine's version of 'The Voice' about the looming threat of war with Russia.
Crushing poverty is forcing displaced people in Afghanistan to make some very desperate choices, including selling organs or even their own girls into marriage to adult men.
'So many angry people': Experts say online conversation around trucker convoy veering into dangerous territory
As a growing group of truckers and supporters make their way to Ottawa in a protest against vaccine mandates, experts say the rhetoric online concerning the convoy is getting increasingly worrisome.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says it has detected more than 50 cases of a new Omicron subvariant known as BA.2. The subvariant is widely considered 'stealthier' than the original version of Omicron because some of its genetic traits make it harder to detect.
From the deadly crushing of Beijing's 1989 pro-democracy protests to the suppression of Hong Kong's opposition four decades later, China's Communist Party has demonstrated a determination and ability to stay in power that is seemingly impervious to Western criticism and sanctions.
Homicide investigators have been called to a Richmond, B.C., duplex after a shooting that left four people dead.
Five deaths related to COVID-19 were confirmed in the Vancouver Island region Wednesday, according to the B.C. Ministry of Health.
British Columbia's forest watchdog has identified four key areas where the management of forestry practices can negatively affect water and outlines potential opportunities for the province to improve regulations.
The British Columbia government says it will distribute up to 250,000 rapid COVID-19 antigen tests to provincially funded child-care providers.
Tuesday’s report of 1,377 COVID-19 patients in hospital was revised to a pandemic-high 1,443 on Wednesday.
'People are fed up': convoy of trucks converges on Ottawa as police prepare for thousands on Parliament Hill
A convoy of hundreds of fed-up Canadian truckers are driving cross-country, heading for the nation’s capital to deliver a message that's raising millions of dollars from donors around the world.
Work is underway converting a vacant Seventh Avenue Calgary office tower into 82 units of affordable and specialized housing.
A junior hockey player in Stony Plain, Alta., has been suspended for eight games after he went into the stands to fight a fan, but his coach says he was defending his mom at the time.
Two events in as many weeks in which Alberta corrections officers fired their weapons is evidence staffing shortages are endangering inmates and staff alike, say sources connected to the prison.
A family is breathing a sigh of relief after a terrifying fire at an apartment in Etobicoke forced a mother to break a second-floor window to save her 10-month-old daughter.
An Ontario woman who says she was offered a free doorbell by a salesperson said she wishes she didn't then sign a 15-year contract for a furnace that will cost her $12,748.
Drivers are being warned to expect significant traffic delays on major highways from Thursday to Saturday as the 'Freedom Convoy' of truckers enters Ontario.
Three COVID-19 patients who were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated have received double lung transplants at a Montreal hospital after their lungs were irreversibly damaged by the disease. One patient was a 49-year-old mother of five.
Since the start of the pandemic, Quebec has issued tickets totaling more than $45 million for public health violations, but only a fraction of them have actually been paid so far, according to data provided to CTV News.
'A terrifying experience’: Montreal mother shares ordeal as ICU sees increase of children admitted with COVID-19 in fifth wave
The medical director at the PICU in the Montreal Children’s Hospital says it is seeing more children get sick with COVID and be sick enough to come to the ICU.
Manitoba's top doctor says hospitalization rates remain high but are stable – though it is too early to tell where the province is in the pandemic's current wave.
A U.S. border patrol agent says a group of people from India attempting to cross the Canada-U.S. border faced blizzard conditions and freezing temperatures during an 11-hour-long trek that left four people dead.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer said the province is continuing to see a significant amount of spread of COVID-19.
Nathaniel Carrier has pleaded guilty to first degree murder in connection to the death of his son and second degree murder in connection to the deaths of his parents.
Saskatchewan reported 1,194 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, along with six more deaths, however active cases are down again.
A popular Riversdale restaurant says it's putting a "pause" on its operations.
Saskatchewan’s premier is hinting some COVID-19 restrictions could soon be lifted, saying current measures may have run their course.
Whether its memories of attending them, or the recent discoveries of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools, many people have been mentally strained by the former schools.
Sylvester Ukabam, a former Regina doctor accused of sexually assaulting five female patients, continued to deny allegations made against him from the witness stand on Wednesday morning.
Premier Tim Houston said Nova Scotia is extending its current provincewide COVID-19 public health restrictions until Feb. 14 in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.
An area of low pressure originating off the coastline of Florida will merge with a cold front on Friday. The resulting storm will rapidly strengthen into a nor’easter, which will move north to impact the Maritimes Saturday into Sunday.
The Halifax Regional Police are on the scene of a sudden death at a hotel in the city.
Matt and Tim Devereaux are sending three of their transports to Ottawa this weekend to protest mandatory vaccines for truckers crossing the border.
Dash-camera footage shows a collision happening as a fire truck approaches: emergency responders offer advice.
London could start losing ground in its efforts to alleviate the housing crisis unless City Hall intervenes.
Sault Ste. Marie's Group Health Centre has been granted an extension by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario for its annual Big Wish Lottery.
While the region is not out of the woods with regard to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, Algoma's medical officer of health says there is reason for optimism.
In the next few months, the Timmins Youth Wellness Hub will be getting ready to open up its new permanent location.
All Region of Waterloo vaccination clinics will offer walk-ins for all eligible residents, starting Jan. 31.
Officials reported four new deaths related to COVID-19 on Wednesday, along with a dip in hospitalizations.
'There are some calls that stick with you': A dramatic increase in mental health disability claims amongst first responders
First responders, like paramedics, firefighters, and police officers say they often deal with mental health challenges.