Understand the impacts and plan for the future.

Here in the Cowichan Valley we are seeing and feeling the primary effects of a changing climate in our water supply. Much of that comes from the Pacific Ocean where warm 'El Nino' events are becoming more common. Typically these deliver mild winters with bigger storms to Vancouver Island, followed by hot, dry summers.

Observations here in British Columbia and around the world confirm that our planet's climate is changing. While any one year may still be colder than others, a persistent warming trend is altering familiar weather patterns around the globe.

Although individual seasons will always vary, in general we are seeing less predictable winter snowfall, with more seasonal precipitation arriving as rain, and less as snow. This is an important difference. Precipitation that falls as snow effectively stores water in the region's uplands, for later release when temperatures rise. By contrast, rain quickly drains into the nearest creek or river, leaving nothing stored for later. As a result, this observed shift from snow to rain in winter may mean less water will flow down our rivers during the summer.

On a world scale, unfamiliar weather extremes are affecting many aspects of life, from basic food production to public health. Storms, drought and flood damage to homes, businesses and public infrastructure is rising. This forces up local taxes and insurance costs, threatening economies and undermining political stability.

Frosts are becoming rarer and less predictable. As the interior of the province as already experienced, that may mean less natural pest control, or the arrival of exotic new parasites.

Less reliable summer flows of water could have profound impacts for irrigated agriculture, endangered salmon and other critical wildlife, community water supply and hydro-electric generation.

Longer, drier and warmer summers increase heat stress on vulnerable individuals as well as crops, communities and wildlife. More frequent heat inversions trap pollution near ground level, heightening air quality concerns.

Click here to find links to important web sites on climate change.