10 weather stories that made 2021 a year like no other

Derek Clayton takes a family on a boat to see their home, which was submerged by flood water in the Sumas Prairie flood zone in Abbotsford, B.C. on Monday, November 22, 2021. (Ben Nelms / CBC – credit image)

Environment Canada has released its Top 10 Weather Stories for 2021 – a year its senior climatologist Dave Phillips calls “the most destructive, expensive and deadliest year for weather in Canadian history.”

Although this is the 26th year that Phillips has made the roster, he said, “No year compared to this year.”

“The events are bigger and more violent and more impactful now than they were just 20 years ago,” he said.

While scientists have sounded the alarm bells about climate change for decades, in the past it has appeared gradual, subtle and distant, Phillips said. “I think this is the year the Canadiens saw it with their own eyes.

The trend over the past 26 years also shows that this is a glimpse of what to expect more and to adapt to, he said. “I think we have to take this as a tryout, a dress rehearsal, of what we’re going to see more of in the future.”

British Columbia was the most affected by weather events, ranking both in the Top 2 and in half of global events.

“The province has been baked, drained, burned, inundated and inundated with mud, rocks and debris flows,” said a statement accompanying the top 10 list.

“It was truly a never-ending parade of misery and hardship and misfortune for them,” added Phillips.

But there have been notable events in other provinces as well, from powerful tornadoes to a record wildfire season. Here’s a look back at them, using the nicknames Phillips gave each one.

1. Save the heat under the dome

On June 28, 2021, Lytton, British Columbia, broke the Canadian temperature record of 45 ° C for the third time in a week, reaching 49.6 ° C. That same week, 90 percent of the village was reduced to ashes in a forest fire, killing two people.

WATCH | Lytton, B.C. evacuated as wildfire sets in after heat wave:

While this represents some of the extreme impacts of the “thermal dome” that baked British Columbia for 11 days in late June, the event also broke more than 1,000 daily temperature records in the northwest and killed hundreds of people. people.

“Due to the extraordinary heat and drought at the start of the summer, British Columbia suffered the deadliest weather week in Canadian history,” Phillips said in a statement.

Overall, 595 people died from heat-related causes over the summer in British Columbia alone, with 231 of those deaths recorded on June 29.

It was remarkable, even in the face of climate change, Phillips said. He expects weather events to be more costly and more impactful, but not necessarily deadlier. “This year was really something from that point of view.”

2. The flood tide of British Columbia

In mid-November, an “atmospheric river” dumped more than 200 millimeters of rain over parts of British Columbia in 48 hours, submerging entire communities underwater and forcing more than 17,000 people to evacuate their homes . The rain triggered mudslides that killed five people and stranded over 1,000 more as they cut and blocked all major roads connecting British Columbia’s Lower Mainland to the rest of the province.

Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press

Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press

“It is possibly the costliest disaster in Canadian history due to the cost of repairing and rebuilding infrastructure, lost opportunities, business failures, insurance losses,” said Phillips, although that he suspects it could take years to verify.

3. Dry Canada from coast to coast

Environment Canada says parts of southern British Columbia east of the Prairies and northwestern Ontario experienced one of their driest summers in 75 years, with many places receiving less half of normal precipitation during the last growing season.

“What made the drought extraordinary is that it was so widespread, severe and long lasting,” he said in his statement.

WATCH | Prairie farmers could face worst drought in history:

Statistics Canada said Canadian canola and wheat production fell by more than 35 percent as a result. In September, many ranchers said they were considering slaughtering their herds due to a sharp increase in the cost of feed.

It has also increased the costs of food for consumers.

4. Forest fire season – early, active, relentless

This summer was the worst wildfire season on record in Ontario, which included the largest fire on record in the province, which burned uncontrollably near Kenora for almost five months.

Across Canada, the season started a month earlier due to a record dry spring and early alpine snowmelt, Environment Canada said. Overall, there were 2,500 more fires in 2021 than in 2020, burning 60% more land than the 10-year average.



Phillips noted that the wildfires in British Columbia helped set the stage for its fall flooding.

“Because the ground was charred, it couldn’t contain the rains that came,” he said, adding that there were many instances where “the intensified climatic extremes that we saw in early spring and in summer created the environment for the other impacts of climate change to occur in a later season. “

The wildfires even affected communities that did not experience them directly, such as Calgary, which had to contend with 512 hours of smoke and haze despite a below-average fire season in Alberta.

“I think that’s what we’re going to see more and more of as well,” Phillips said. “It’s not just something happening in your garden. The impact of it is going to be brought from elsewhere.”

5. Canada overcomes 4 heat waves

Besides the June heat dome in British Columbia, there were four other major heat waves across the country between the May long weekend and mid-August. Environment Canada report. British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan each had their hottest summers in at least 60 years.

6. Year of tornado EF-2

Tornadoes with wind speeds between 180 km / h and 220 km / h – strong enough to tear roofs off houses and uproot 50% of trees in their path – receive a score of two on the Fujita Enhanced Scale.

While Environment Canada has not finished counting, “the number of EF-2s was high, especially in the east,” this year, Phillips said.

On June 21, a tornado killed one person in Mascouche, Que., For the first time in 27 years, and seven tornadoes swept through Ontario on July 15, including a particularly destructive one in Barrie, just north of Toronto, which damaged 25 buildings. and injured 11 people.

WATCH | Tornado expert visits Barrie after:

In November, Vancouver experienced its first tornado in 40 years.

Meanwhile, the Prairies, which are normally a “hotbed” for tornadoes, did not experience any over two summer months as drought made it impossible to produce. “It was just too dry, too sunny,” Phillips said.

7. Fearsome arctic explosion freezes Canada in February

While there was a lot of attention on the extreme heat, there was a noticeable extreme frost during the second week of February.

It broke more than 225 new daily low minimum temperature records, including –51.9 ° C in Wekweeti, Northwest Territories, the coldest temperature in Canada in four years.

WATCH | The polar vortex provides freezing temperatures across much of Canada:

8. Another hail-flood in Calgary

A hailstorm in Calgary made it to the Top 10 for the second year in a row. While this year’s event does not compare to the one that caused at least $ 1.2 billion in damage in 2020, the 50 millimeters of rain caused flash flooding in many areas and hailstones from the waist up. a golf ball dented many cars and homes and cracked windshields, generating nearly 16,000 insurance claims, according to Environment Canada.

WATCH | Flash floods fill the roads of southwest Calgary:

9. Hurricane Larry belonged to Newfoundland

Hurricane Larry entered Canadian waters on September 10 as a Category 2 hurricane, with sustained winds of 155 km / h. A day later, it made landfall as a Category 1 storm west of the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland, ripping off the roof of a school and cutting off power to 60,000 customers.

The storm surge it produced amid high tides damaged roads, parks and coastal communities. The insurance industry estimates material losses at more than $ 25 million, according to Environment Canada.

WATCH | Hurricane Larry cuts off electricity in Newfoundland:

10. January Prairie Clipper

The first notable weather event of 2021 rounds out the Top 10: intense winds that swept through the western Prairies in the second week of January.

Fiona Odlum / CBC

Fiona Odlum / CBC

Winds of 161 km / h were recorded at the Moose Jaw airport in Saskatchewan. Winds of 137 km / h at Barnwell, Alta., And 143 km / h at Bratt’s Lake, Sask., Were also among those that broke records on January 13.

“During the storm, so many anemometers exploded that without a doubt many more records were set than what was reported,” Environment Canada said.

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