Canada: Deficits persist in Gatineau River Watershed QC

18 February 2019

THE BIG PICTURE
The 12-month outlook for Canada through October 2019 indicates vast pockets of intense water deficit in Quebec. Intense deficits are also forecast along the northern Quebec-Ontario border, northeastern Manitoba, and northern Alberta.

Exceptional surpluses are forecast for a large block from Fort McMurray, Alberta to Cree Lake, Saskatchewan. Areas with surpluses of generally lesser intensity include northwestern Manitoba, and British Columbia around Fort St. John, in the southeast, and a small pocket around Vancouver.

FORECAST BREAKDOWN
The 3-month maps (below) show the evolving conditions in more detail.

The forecast through April indicates persistent, widespread, exceptional deficits across Quebec (QC) from Hudson Bay into central Labrador. Exceptional deficits are also forecast in the Ottawa-Gatineau region of QC, northern New Brunswick (NB), and around Fortune Bay on the Island of Newfoundland. In Ontario (ON), moderate to extreme deficits will persist along the eastern border; surpluses around Toronto; and, severe deficits in the Severn River Watershed of Northern Ontario, surpluses between the Ekwan and Albany Rivers, and nearly normal conditions in the remainder of Northern Ontario.

In the Prairie Provinces, severe to extreme deficits are forecast in southern Saskatchewan (SK) surrounding Regina and exceptional deficits in the Upper Assiniboine River Watershed. Deficits will also be intense in the Middle and Upper Reaches of the Athabasca River in Alberta (AB) and in the far northwest of the province, and around Hudson Bay in Manitoba (MB) and a small pocket near Winnipeg. Surpluses will increase in the north forming a vast stretch from Fort McMurray, AB through SK and into central MB. In British Columbia (BC), surpluses of varying intensity are forecast in the south and in the north from Fort St. John along the Peace River past Williston Lake. Deficits will downgrade but persist in the north and around Prince George, and severe deficits are forecast for southern Vancouver Island.

From May through July, the extent of exceptional deficits will shrink in the east, but deficits of varying intensity will increase overall, blanketing ON and QC, though deficits in the Ottawa-Gatineau region will downgrade to mild. MB will also see an increase in deficits and northwestern corner of the province will begin to transition out of surplus to mild deficit. Deficits in southern SK and AB will become mild. Surpluses will shrink in BC and deficits will downgrade.

The forecast for the final three months – August through October – indicates moderate to extreme deficits from eastern MB through NB, mild to moderate deficits in much of AB and SK, and moderate deficits in BC with severe conditions in the north. Surpluses will diminish but persist across the northern border of AB and SK, and moderate surpluses will re-emerge in northwestern MB.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

IMPACTS
Recently-published Saskatchewan Flood and Natural Hazard Risk Assessment concluded that drought and summer storms are the province’s highest-risk natural hazards. Drought and floods are followed by forest fires and winter storms.

Extreme weather took a 30-to-40-million-dollar (22.6 to 30.1 million USD) hit to New Brunswick’s hydropower utility over the past fiscal year. A combination of flooding disruptions in the spring and a water-scarce summer dropped power generation to a 30-year low, with dams operating at 69 percent of their long-term average generation. The utility claims that it is monitoring trends to see if variance in weather events, and its production output, aligns with climate change trends.

A powerful December in southwestern British Columbia prompted a helicopter rescue of a man stranded on a pier shattered by storm winds. Hundreds of thousands of homes lost power, the city of Nanaimo’s water treatment plant was damaged, and one person was killed by a falling tree. Over 750,000 BC Hydro customers were left without power, making it the most damaging storm in the utility’s history.

Extreme weather continued into the new year in the province, flooding southern British Columbia with water and snow which caused a boil water advisory for the Comox Valley water system. An entire month’s worth of rainfall fell on parts of eastern Vancouver Island and Port Alberni.

An early-January snowstorm in Newfoundland knocked out local power and rendered roads impassable for repair crews and even snowplows for a night. The storm dumped up to 42cm (16.5 inches) of snow, closing government offices and stalling transportation by road, sea, and air.

Payouts to four Manitoba First Nations for flooding in 2011 were delayed last month, after thousands of claims were missing critical pieces. The payouts are associated with a $90 million (67.9 million USD) class action lawsuit settlement against the provincial and federal governments, approved by a judge last year.

Saskatchewan’s Parklands has merely a fraction of the snow cover that it has had at this time in past years, in what one climatologist calls an unprecedented lack of precipitation, and which has farmers and ranchers worried that two years of drought will extend to three or more.

NOTE ON ADMINISTRATIVE BOUNDARIES
There are numerous regions around the world where country borders are contested. ISciences depicts country boundaries on these maps solely to provide some geographic context. The boundaries are nominal, not legal, descriptions of each entity. The use of these boundaries does not imply any judgement on the legal status of any territory, or any endorsement or acceptance of disputed boundaries on the part of ISciences or our data providers.

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Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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