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How climate change played a role in the B.C. floods


Climate change, wildfires, and towns being built on former lakes played major roles in the flooding across British Columbia, says a climate researcher at Queen’s University.

“We've really grossly underestimated what needs to be done to mitigate the flooding that is going to occur in the future,” Edward Struzik, a fellow at Queen’s Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy in Kingston, Ont., told during a video interview on Tuesday.

He urged engineers to team up with climate scientists and meteorologists to rethink infrastructure, such as bridges, railways, and roads, with climate change in mind.

Failing to do this will mean the fallout from future flooding is “going to get worse before it gets any better,” he said.

Struzik, the author of “Swamplands: Tundra Beavers, Quaking Bogs and the Improbable World of Peat,” lays out four human influences that played roles in the recent flooding in the province.

The first includes how humans built cities, farms, and towns on top of former lakes, bogs, and fens – all of which naturally absorbed much of the excess water from large rainfalls.

The second is that atmospheric rivers -- defined as long, narrow streams of high water vapour concentrations that can deliver intense amounts of rainfall over a short period -- can become filled with increased water because of climate change. As oceans heat up, more water evaporates and can enter these airborne rivers.

“Think of it as kind of like the Amazon River up in the air,” Struzik said.

He added that wildfires, which are partially driven by climate change, have also played a role because with fewer trees, excess moisture is no longer getting absorbed like in centuries past.

Watch the video above to see how else human decisions and climate change have all played roles in the flooding across the West Coast. Top Stories

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