City already warmer and wetter than in ‘70s
Hamilton is already nearly one degree warmer than it was 40 years ago and getting more rain to boot.
The Hamilton Conservation Authority now hopes to get a handle on how the city will be affected by climate change in the decades to come – and what can be done about it.
Members of the authority’s budget and administration committee last week agreed to kick start a two-phase, $103,000 study by reallocating about half that amount from a fund initially earmarked to examine shoreline protection.
Hazel Breton, manager of water resources engineering, said the ultimate goal is to mitigate and adapt to the changes in store.
She said she hopes to have some preliminary findings of the study, which will focus on the lower SpencerCreek watershed, by the end of this year.
To be conducted with the help of Waterloo-area consultants Matrix Solutions, the study will “downscale” global and other available climate data to Hamilton to project a range of impacts by 2050, Breton said.
“We will run those models over our landscape that will then tell us, will we be having an increase in cold-alert days, heat-alert days, number and extent of frequency of extreme rainfalls and snow events,” she said.
“Knowing that we will probably end up somewhere between those extremes, we will be able to identify vulnerable areas both for the city, in terms of flooding and low-lying areas, but also the experience of cold alerts and heat alerts and, in our case, flooding.”
Breton said the City of Niagara Falls has already done a similar study and found its weather will be like New Jersey’s by mid-century.
“They’re in their streetscape planting already looking at the New Jersey vegetation and actually have started to plant that type of tree in the urban environment. Others are looking at more heat-resistant plants,” she said.
“We’re not only going to look at how we mitigate, but how we adapt as well to prepare ourselves, so we’re a little bit different.”
Breton said although many people “are getting the message” on the need to cut carbon emissions, the message needs to be taken more urgently and put into action.
“It doesn’t have to be rocket-science things; it’s very simple things,” she said, like not watering the lawn every day, running the air conditioner all summer or washing down a driveway when rain will eventually do the job.
“It’s drinkable water and the cost to keep it clean and transport it is huge, and it does emit CO2 to do that… I know it’s baby steps, but some small things we start with and then we’re going to graduate to more significant actions.”