Very long-term forecast: higher temperatures, more precipitation

Andrew Robinson
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Environment and Conservation Minister Tom Hedderson announced details of the province’s climate projections study, completed by Joel Finnis, a nationally-recognized
climatologist at Memorial University’s department of geography, Thursday morning at the Suncor Energy Fluvarium in St. John’s. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

A government-funded study offering climate projections for Newfoundland and Labrador suggests climate change could affect the population in a variety of ways during the next few decades.

Based on the work of local climatologist Joel Finnis, a geography professor at Memorial University who studies large climate data sets to inform his analysis, the study found that temperatures will go up, precipitation will increase and the severity of weather events involving precipitation will rise.

As projections, Finnis said there are always ranges of uncertainty in what the models suggest will occur.

“But the models are all in agreement that temperatures are going to rise,” he said. “The models are largely in agreement with what’s going to happen with precipitation.”

By the middle of this century, temperatures are projected to rise anywhere from 2 C to 4 C. A rise in the mean temperature will result in fewer days with frost and a shorter winter season, thus allowing for a longer growing season. Dry spells are expected to decrease in all seasons.

Gerald Crane, director of research and analysis with the province’s Office of Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Emissions Trading, said recent years in Newfoundland and Labrador have been the warmest on record since the Second World War.


Crane said higher temperatures will be more noticeable in northern Labrador, where mean temperatures are projected to rise by 4 C or 5 C above what they are now. Overall warming will be more significant on the western half of Newfoundland than on the eastern half.

There has been evidence of increased storm activity in the province within the last 20 years. According to data from the Canadian Hurricane Centre and Environment Canada, the first 90 years of the 20th century saw an average of six storms per 10-year period take place in Newfoundland and Labrador. From 1990 onwards, that number has risen to 11.5 storms.

Crane made note of some possible outcomes related to the projections. Human health could be affected by warmer temperatures through variations to patterns of diseases linked to bacteria and viruses carried in insects and animals. Fish health could similarly be affected.

Increased precipitation could create a need for larger culverts and increase demand for snowclearing during winter months. Tourism seasons might change, agricultural and forestry activity may expand, and coastal erosion may intensify.

Offering an example of the increased severity of storms, Crane said a 1-in-100-years storm in

St. Lawrence with 134 millimetres of rain over a 24-hour period would become equivalent to a 1-in-50-years storm. Such information could affect future decisions made in the community.

While he does not believe Newfoundland and Labrador is more susceptible to climate change than other parts of Canada, Finnis says it is more susceptible to certain outcomes relevant to climate change.

“There’s high concern with things like sea levels rising, although admittedly getting to things like sea level rise is much harder than talking about things like increased precipitation outcome,” he said.

Environment Minister Tom Hedderson said the government will use information in the study to help inform decisions made in multiple departments.

“This information will of course now be incorporated into any long-term planning with regard to infrastructure,” he said.

Discussing the aftermath of hurricane Igor, which caused millions of dollars in damage to roads and culverts throughout the central and eastern regions of the province, Hedderson said the province increased the size of approximately half the culverts replaced. Concrete abutments were also placed around the culverts to permit expansion.

“We did incorporate the best practices at that particular time,” said Hedderson, who was the Transportation and Works minister during hurricane Igor, “but this new information now, these new projections, will be incorporated into all of our government planning to make sure that we’re getting ahead.”

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: Office of Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Emissions Trading, Canadian Hurricane Centre, Environment Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Northern Labrador, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Chance of Showers
    June 14, 2013 - 13:02

    There are no accurate forecasts for the rest of the week let alone 50 years time. What a joke.

    • Muhammad
      June 20, 2013 - 12:38

      Don't get confused with weather (short term) & climate (long term). Both require different prediction skills & parameters.

  • max
    June 14, 2013 - 11:35

    Will these idiots never stop!!!?? ".... climate change could affect the population in a variety of ways during the next few decades".Well who'd a thunk it!! I am a PC supporter,but for the love God Tom Hedderson, go back to school. Just imagine, climates change,or is this the first time in history. FYI,Tom and Joel, the same people at the U. of East Anglia in Norwich,England whose data was so eagerly seized upon by the likes of Saint Suzuki and Gory Al, released data a short time ago that shows the earth has not warmed since 1996. Of course we can't let the truth get in the way of making a few hundred million dollars can we? Why would you spend money on a study of a subject that is not peculiar only to this province or maybe we are the only island on the globe.As I write this the sun is shining brilliantly and yet that stunned weatherman predicted clouds and showers.Get a grip Tom or did someone call you from afar and put this idea of a study in your mind or did you have an epiphany?

  • Wild Rose
    June 14, 2013 - 09:31

    Global warming is a hoax to raise taxes on us.

  • Winston Adams
    June 14, 2013 - 09:24

    Climate change and Muskrat falls.... we are already seeing lower production of Holyrood power from warmer winters and more rainfall. And the rationale for MF is that we will need a lot more power for winter heat. This study is one one more nail in the coffin for Muskrat, thought no one in government is saying it is a factor. Here are some facts; 1. a 3degree C rise is 5.4 F rise 2. for every degree F rise, efficient heating systems( heatpumps) perform 1.4 percent better, so that is 7.5 percent better efficiency, so instead of a average reduction of 65 percent in heating energy it will be 72.5 percent reduction. 3. For a house with insulation average of R25, the future warmer outdoor temperature gives about 10 percent less heat loss on a cold winter day and about 18 percent less heat loss on a milder winter day, on average about 14 percent less heat loss. 4. The impact will be the sum of less heat needed and more heat generated while using less electricity: 14+ 7.5= 21.5 reduction in energy use to households that heat by heatpumps. 5. More rainfall on the island gives more low cost generation potential from island hydro. 6. The present attraction of heatpumps is an average reduction is heating energy of 65 percent. Warmer winters using heatpumps will mean a present reduction of 65 plus the new 21.5 additional reduction = 86.5 reduction from present conditions of baseboard heaters and present climate. This will drive the conversion to heatpumps further and undermine the economics of MF. Perhaps the Efficiency department or Efficiency minister or Nalcor may dispute there figures? Perhaps they can find a way to say a warmer winter will require more electricity for heating our houses?

  • david
    June 14, 2013 - 08:02

    In 50 years, the Chinese will have re-animated dinosaurs and woolly mammoths, and they will roam the streets in never-ending battles to the death, using their implanted GPS units to communicate. In preparation for this nightmare future, I am now selling personal miniaturized bodysuit your great great grand kids from the apocalypse, and invest a few thousand dollars today in this invalueable gift of life!! ...BTW, you think it might rain this weekend?

  • Ed Fry
    June 14, 2013 - 07:28

    What utter hogwash. The models used are extremely inaccurate and simplistic and only account for a handful of variables, some of which scientists do not even fully understand. Furthermore, world temps are trending downward, not upward and the nonsensical talk about extreme weather is just that - nonsensical. The numbers of hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. are DOWN. What is most telling is that the very same models that were used in this study cannot accuratelt predict PAST weather. If they cannot even get what has already occurred correct, how the heck can they get the future right? They cannot.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    June 14, 2013 - 06:56

    The new study (by MUN) that predicts that over the next 50 years (the same time period that Nalcor relies on for the viability of Muskrat Falls), concludes that "During the winter season, average daily temperature is expected to rise by about 3ºC in all regions on the island"............ The report goes on to state that "Temperature rise will result in fewer 'heating degree days', meaning less demand for energy to heat buildings .... (It says that) frost days can be used as a proxy for winter length and severity. The number of days with frost is expected to decline by between 25 (3.5 weeks) and 32 (4.5 weeks) on the island .... (and that) The average amount of precipitation per precipitation event is expected to increase by about 5% across all seasons and all regions of the island. The absolute level of precipitation is expected to increase the most during the winter months and during the fall months for the Avalon Peninsula" ................Accordingly, it seems clear the island's winter time energy needs will be less than forecast and the island's existing hydro sites will provide more power IN WINTER, when it is needed most, thereby reducing the need for Holyrood (and Muskrat Falls). ............What will that do to Nalcor's forecast 0.8% yearly increase in energy demand -------- keeping in mind that the National Energy Board has previously concluded that if demand is low, Muskrat Falls is NOT the lowest possible cost option?..... 85% of the island's existing energy production is from hydro. A 25% reduction in frost days during the winter combined with a 5% increase in wintertime precipitation could mean that Holyrood's contribution could be reduced from 29% of our energy needs in 2002, 10.5 % in 2012, to less than 5% in future years--- virtually negating in total any need for high cost Muskrat Falls power.

  • original townie
    June 14, 2013 - 06:27

    Hedderson needs his head examined. Spending money to determine weather in fifty years from now, when climatologists can't get the weather right for the upcoming weekend. What BS! This government never ceases to amaze me. Anyway, an extra 4-5C wouldn't hurt....look outside, again today. My prediction....RDF rest of June. charge for this free info.