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Climate change report predicting hotter summers, warmer winters for Okanagan

New report outlines future impacts of climate change in the Okanagan

The Okanagan will have considerably hotter summers, along with warmer winters and longer growing seasons, according to a new climate change report.

Titled “Climate projections for the Okanagan region” and released Tuesday, the report features climate projections for the 2050s and 2080s.

It says findings indicate that the Okanagan can expect significant changes to climate in the coming decades, including summer becoming hotter and drier, warmer temperatures year-round and increased precipitation across all seasons, except summer.

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However, the report noted “the extent of how much the climate changes over time depends directly on how well the global community is able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the near term.”

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The report is a collaborative effort from the North Okanagan, Central Okanagan and Okanagan-Similkameen regional districts, with the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium providing climate data and interpretation.

“This report is one of the most important tools we have in preparing for our future as a region,” Kevin Acton, RDNO chair, said in a press release.

“We need action now, and through this report, we have a clearer idea of what to expect and how to adapt for the longevity of our communities.”

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According to the report, in the past, the Okanagan as a whole averaged six days per year above 30 C. By the 2050s, the region can expect an average of 22 days above 30 C per year, and 36 days per year by the 2080s.

For valley bottoms, in the past, the North Okanagan experienced 27 days per year above 30 C, with the Central having 24 and the South 28.

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For valley bottoms in the future, the Okanagan will experience around 32 days per year above 30 C in the 2050s, with 52-54 days above 30 C in the 2080s.

“Temperatures can be expected to surpass 43 C on an annual basis in the populated areas of the Okanagan region by the end of the century,” said the report.

“These indicators of warming mark a considerable change, and could lead to significant human and ecosystem health impacts.”

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Increased duration of growing season

“Across the Okanagan, growing season length is projected to increase from about 5.5 months to almost seven months by the 2050s, and almost eight months by the 2080s. While this longer season may bring opportunities for new crops, water management, weather variability and extreme events may reduce the productivity of the agricultural sector.”

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Warmer winter temperatures

“Temperatures on the coldest nights are projected to rise in all seasons across the Okanagan. Winter nighttime low temperatures are projected to warm more than other seasons. By the 2050s, there will be 28 per cent fewer frost days, which will have implications for invasive species, agriculture and streamflow.”

Shifting seasons

“With warmer annual temperatures, winter is expected to shorten while summer will lengthen, causing spring-like conditions earlier and autumn-like conditions later in the year. Projections illustrate that January temperatures of the future will feel like March temperatures of the past, and future May temperatures will be similar to August temperatures of the past.”

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“We’ve all seen the impact climate change is having on our environment and economy,” said RDCO chair Gail Givens.

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“The climate projections report lays the groundwork for everyone to respond and act in a meaningful way to help mitigate the potential challenges in the years ahead.”

In related news, UBC Okanagan will be hosting the public launch of the report on Feb. 26.

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