Whitehorse’s SS Klondike is reflected in a melting patch of ice in 2008. A report released recently by the federal government says that the Canadian North is feeling the impacts of climate change more acutely than the rest of the country, with a portion of the Yukon seeing one of the largest temperature increases nationwide. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)

Climate change affecting northern Canada faster than rest of the country, report says

The North is warming three time faster than the global average, according to a new report

The Canadian North is feeling the impacts of climate change more acutely than the rest of the country, with a portion of the Yukon seeing one of the largest temperature increases nationwide, according to a newly-released federal report on climate change.

Entitled Canada’s Changing Climate Report, the eight-chapter document, released April 1, is essentially a summary of decades of data showing how Canada’s climate has changed as well as explanations of what’s causing the changes and their impacts.

It’s the first of several to be released as part of a larger project led by Natural Resources Canada called Canada in a Changing Climate: Advancing our Knowledge for Action.

Canada, overall, is warming at twice as fast as the rest of the world on average, according to Canada’s Changing Climate Report, with the country’s average annual temperature having risen 1.7 C between 1948 and 2016. However, the North has been warming faster than the south, with the territories seeing a 2.3 C increase — three times the global average — during that time frame.

Broken down into seasons, winter saw the largest temperature jump, with the average winter temperature across the North rising by 4.3 C. At the same time, both spring and fall temperatures increased by about 2 C, while summer temperatures rose by 1.6 C.

In the Yukon, in particular, all of the territory except for a small portion at the northernmost point saw an increase in winter temperatures of about 5.5 C.

Overall, between 1948 and 2016, the entirety of the Yukon warmed up by at least 2 C, with more than half the territory warming up by between 2.5 C to 3 C.

According to a temperature-change map in the report, an area in the Yukon stretching roughly from the west of Old Crow down to Eagle Plains and east to the border with the Northwest Territories saw one of the biggest warm-ups across the country, with the annual average temperature increasing by about 3.5 C.

The report notes that it’s likely that “more than half of the observed warming in Canada is due to human influence,” and that the country will continue to warm up over the 21st century, regardless of the level of greenhouse gas emissions. At this point, the report says, the level of emissions, whether low or high, will only change how much the temperature increases by the end of the century, which could range from an additional 2 C, based on a low-emissions model, up to more than an additional 6 C, based on a high-emissions model.

The report links the warmer climate to increased fire activity, lakes and rivers freezing later and breaking up earlier, earlier peak spring streamflows due to earlier snowmelts, and an increase in permafrost temperature.

(In the Old Crow Flats, in particular, thawing permafrost has been linked to the loss of about 3,000 hectares of lake area between 1951 and 2007; as permafrost under lakes melts, the water can suddenly drain into the now-thawed land. The report notes that “catastrophic lake drainages in this region have become more than five times more frequent in recent decades.)

Temperature isn’t the only thing that’s changed, and will continue to change, over the years though.

Canada-wide, precipitation increased by about 20 per cent from 1948 to 2012, the report says, with the North, again, seeing a larger increase compared to the rest of the country (the report says northern Canada is believed to have seen a 32.5 per cent increase, although the confidence in the data is low due to a limited number of monitoring stations).

Like the temperature increase, the increase in precipitation in northern Canada was most significant in the winter, where there was an 54 per cent increase in precipitation from 1948 to 2012, followed by spring, with a 42.2 per cent increase.

However, when it comes to the fire season, the report says, the increase in precipitation has not been enough to make up for the increase in temperatures.

Other findings include a five to 10 per cent reduction in snow cover for every decade since 1981; a decline in both summer and winter sea ice; and glaciers receding at an “unprecedented” rate.

“Historical warming has led to changes in rain and snow, rivers and lakes, ice, and coastal zones, and these changes are challenging our sense of what a ‘normal’ climate is,” the report concludes.

“The world’s climate, including Canada’s climate, is changing because of human emissions of greenhouse gases… Beyond the next few decades, the largest uncertainty about the magnitude of future climate change is rooted in uncertainty about human behaviour, that is, whether the world will follow a pathway of low, medium, or high emissions…

“Until climate is stabilized, there will not be a new ‘normal’ climate.”

The full report is available online at changingclimate.ca

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Climate changeYukon

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A bobcat is used to help clear snow in downtown Whitehorse on Nov. 4. According to Environment Canada, the Yukon has experienced record-breaking precipitation this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon will have “delayed spring” after heavy winter snowfall

After record levels of precipitation, cold spring will delay melt

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted online. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

A Housing First building on Fifth Avenue and Wood Street will be taken over by the Council of Yukon First Nations and John Howard Society later this month. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CYFN, John Howard Society take over downtown Housing First residence

The organizations have pledged culturally appropriate service for its many Indigenous residents

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. Politicians return for the spring sitting of the assembly March 4. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Analysis: What to expect in spring sitting of the legislature

They’re back on March 4, but election speculation is looming large

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

Most Read