Flooding and smog attributable to climate change, Bishop’s prof says

Flooding and smog attributable to climate change, Bishop’s prof says

By Jack Wilson

Local Journalism Initiative


Climate change is to blame for the air quality warnings, flooding and severe weather in the Townships over the last months, said Bishop’s geography professor Elisabeth Levac. People are taking notice, she said, which she hopes will lead to reduced emissions and better adaption to the changing conditions.

Scientists were once reluctant to peg single weather events to climate change, Levac said. Now, “we’re seeing that people are saying it is related to climate change.”

Beyond simple warming, climate change creates more extreme weather and often results in one weather pattern sticking around for longer than usual, Levac said. This recent period of frequent rain was preceded by a relatively dry few weeks. It’s becoming more common to “get kind of trapped into one pattern,” she said.

“Since the beginning of July, we’ve already received twice the total amount of rain we [usually] get for the month and the month is not finished,” Levac said. That prolonged period of rain facilitated the July 11 flooding, she explained. Usually, “whenever we get a bit of rain, even if we get a big thunderstorm, the ground will absorb the rain and the river’s already pretty low.” But when rain fell last week, the ground was already saturated with water and the river was already high. In those conditions, the rain “has nowhere to go,” Levac said.

Air quality has also been worse than normal, a result of wildfires raging throughout Quebec. Countrywide, wildfires have destroyed more land this year than any other year on record, only about halfway into the wildfire season. “People are having a sense of what a perfect storm some situations can become,” Levac said.

Wildfires aren’t the only cause of poor air quality, the professor said. Coal power plants in the U.S. send pollution north of the border. And day-to-day, the biggest culprits can be cars. “We’re creating lots of pollution with cars. In Sherbrooke, most of the air pollution is from the cars,” Levac said.


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