Canada: Intense water deficits to retreat from Ottawa-Gatineau Watershed

25 April 2019

THE BIG PICTURE
The 12-month outlook for Canada through December 2019 indicates water deficits of varying intensity nearly coast-to-coast in the provinces, with large pockets of exceptional deficit in Quebec, the Prairie Provinces’ northern environs, and northern British Columbia.

Intense deficits are also forecast in a block on the northern portion of Ontario’s eastern border, in eastern New Brunswick, and southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

A large block of exceptional surplus is forecast surrounding Fort McMurray, Alberta leading past Churchill Lake, Saskatchewan. Surpluses of varying intensity are forecast for southeastern British Columbia, and at the opposite end of the country at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River west of the Manicouagan River.

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

The major changes forecast through June are that exceptional deficits in the Ottawa-Gatineau Watershed of Quebec (QC) will downgrade to mild; widespread surpluses in much of Northern Ontario (ON) will transition to deficit; and deficits in the Middle Reaches of the Athabasca River Watershed in Alberta (AB) will become exceptional while exceptional surpluses increase in the Lower Reaches.

As for major population areas, deficits of varying intensity are forecast from Quebec City to Sherbrooke QC; moderate surpluses west of Toronto ON and extreme surpluses near Sarnia; extreme deficits around Winnipeg, Manitoba (MB); a pocket of severe deficits west of Regina, Saskatchewan (SK); some moderate surpluses east of Edmonton AB along the North Saskatchewan River, transitioning from moderate deficits; and relatively normal conditions in Calgary. Intense deficits will persist in the Vancouver area though the extent of exceptional deficits will diminish.

Surpluses will emerge in QC where the Manicouagan River meets the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, leading northwest. Intense deficits will persist in Southern ON east of Georgian Bay to the Ottawa River and will increase farther north along the eastern ON border. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast across southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan, with more intense anomalies around Winnipeg, as previously mentioned, and in the Upper Assiniboine River Watershed on the southeastern border of SK. Exceptional surpluses will increase in a vast block across the northern border of AB into SK. In British Columbia (BC), exceptional surpluses are forecast in the Columbia River Basin in the southeast.

From July through September, surpluses will nearly disappear in southeastern BC, will shrink around Fort McMurray AB and transition to conditions of both deficit and surplus across the border in SK, and will emerge in the eastern portion of mainland Newfoundland and Labrador. Deficits will remain widespread across the nation in much the same distribution pattern as in the forecast for the prior three months, but the extent of exceptional deficits will diminish somewhat particularly in BC and AB. Relatively mild deficits are expected across the southern portion of the Prairie Provinces.

The forecast for the final three months – October through December – indicates primarily moderate deficits from BC through western QC, along with some severe pockets. Areas of surplus include northern QC, the northern border of AB and SK, and southeastern BC.

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

IMPACTS
The Insurance Bureau of Canada reports that a March winter storm in eastern Canada caused over $124 million in insured damage related to water damage and flooding in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

Last month was Vancouver’s second-driest March on record, with just 31.2 mm (1.2 inches) of rainfall. British Columbia’s Northern Interior community of Dease Lake recorded no precipitation at all for the entire month. Two grass fires started a few days ahead of wildfire season in the province, spanning a collective 350 hectares (865 acres).

Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, and northern Canada is warming three times faster than the global average, according to a new report by the Canadian government. The report notes that Canada is also experiencing increased winter precipitation, and extreme fire conditions and water shortages in the summer.

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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