Storm warning

Published on July 5, 2014

Last year, there wasn’t enough bottled water to moisten parched throats at the annual Salmon Festival concert in Grand Falls-Windsor.

This year, they may have the opposite problem.

As of 24 hours ago, the exact impact of hurricane/tropical storm Arthur on the island of Newfoundland was uncertain, but there was no doubt the system would bring wet and windy weather to most of Atlantic Canada.

If concert-goers are lucky, the nastiness will stay away this afternoon, when acts such as Maroon 5 and Pitbull are slated to take the stage. In fact, meteorologists say while Arthur could make landfall as a hurricane in Nova Scotia today, it would likely be downgraded before hitting Newfoundland tonight or Sunday.

Here’s something that might be on a lot of people’s minds, though.

Not only is this the first official hurricane to scoot up the Eastern Seaboard this year, it’s also the only one in recent memory to occur so early in the summer.

The past 15 years have seen a noticeable increase in the number of hurricanes and tropical storms visiting the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador.

While the overall trend seems to reflect the projected outcomes of global warming, any one event can’t be singled out as specifically caused by it. And it’s true the deadliest hurricane to ever hit these shores occurred in 1775.

But look at some of the past few big storms to come ashore in Newfoundland and the Maritimes and you’ll see why Arthur — whether the threat is realized or not — stands out:

Gustave, September 2002

Juan, September 2003

Kyle, September 2008

Earl, September 2010

Igor, September 2010

Maria, September 2011

Leslie, September 2012

You might find a scattered storm in August, but a July hurricane is definitely a rarity.

Are we in for more doom and gloom — more frequent and more intense storms as time goes on?

Not necessarily.

A U.S. study last September suggested climate change may actually cause changes in prevailing atmospheric winds which would help push hurricanes away from the U.S. east coast. What happens to them after that was not made clear.

Environment Canada’s hurricane centre concedes more research is needed to predict what will happen off our coasts: “Although one might expect global warming to lead to more tropical storms and hurricanes, the heat balance in the ocean and atmosphere is very complex.”

So, no need for panic yet. Unless you have pricey tickets for an outdoor concert.