Climate Change in Newfoundland and Labrador

“I want to help my community build resilience to climate change, but I’m super busy, resources are tight, and just don’t know where to start.”

Sound familiar? We get it. You’re not alone, and we can help!

(there will be a paragraph or so here to talk about climate change and how it could affect municipalities here)

(there will also be a section describing the 7 steps tool)

WILDFIRE

Climate change will cause dryer and hotter summers which will increase the chance of wildfires due to dryer forests. Many wildfires in Newfoundland and Labrador are cause by human activity, but with dryer forests these fires will become larger and harder to control much faster than in the past. In Labrador fires caused by lighting strike are very common and lightening storms will most likely increase in frequency due to climate change. A dryer season can cause 3 times as many wildfires compared to a wetter season as seen in 2018 (48 in 22 days) compared to 2017 (14 in 22 days) in Newfoundland. Adaptations for municipalities will focus on reducing the number of wildfires started by human activity, reduce the potential damages on private and public property, and ensure an appropriate emergency plan is in place.

Adaptations

  • Municipalities should monitor the fire index and have a way to communicate with residences. This could include signs within popular camping sites, which display an up to date fire index and what that means for the area.
  • During high risk periods (droughts) municipalities should implement fire bans and have an effective way to communicate with residences (radio, app, social media)
  • Hold public outreach days on fire suppression awareness

 

  • Become a FireSmart community https://www.firesmartcanada.ca/
  • Identify the interface priority zones within the community. These are the homes that will be most vulnerable to wildfires. These areas would need to be evacuated first in the event of a fire.
  • Use FireSmart guidelines to educate public on the best construction materials and plans to reduce the change of a wildfire damaging and spreading between homes
  • Municipalities could require homes to be built with certain fire safety standards in the interface zones
  • Provide incentives for new homes built to be fire safe (based on FireSmart technologies)
  • Create bylaws based around fuel management within the interface priority zones
  • Ensure fire departments have enough equipment to protect houses form an encroaching fire
    • Portable pumps and extra long hoses
    • Plenty of water sources near interface zones
    • Sprinkler system
  • Create a fire equipment sharing program between nearby towns to save on costs for extra equipment that may not be used daily (only in the case of a large wildfire)
  • Create a detailed emergency / evacuation plan including members from:
    • School bus/ transportation companies
    • Schools
    • Hospitals
    • Personal care homes
    • Community non-profits (clothing donations, supplies etc.)
    • Media
    • Fire department
    • Police department
    • Neighbouring communities
  • Create an emergency preparedness plan which organizes volunteers to help neighbours in the event of an evacuation or encroaching wildfires. In many places this would happen anyways, but vulnerable members of the community may feel more secure knowing there is a plan for someone to help them.
  • Complete table top disaster exercises with representatives from different organizations in the community and exercises which are open to the public.
  • Have a communication plan in place

CASE STUDIES

FLOODING

Increasing ocean temperatures in the north has caused an increase in storms with heavy rainfall. These storms are traveling further north and are causing an increase in periods of heavy rainfall in Newfoundland and Labrador. Municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador are expected to see an increase in major rainstorms over the next 20-50 years. Many municipalities are expected to have over a 15% increase in rain within a single 24-hour period, some up to 19% such as Nain and St. Anthony. This could cause flooding in areas which have not traditionally had flooding problems, and in areas where the infrastructure cannot handle increases in storm runoff. Many of the adaptations suggested in this section are ways to manage storm water runoff by increasing the permeability of the built landscape and preserving lands which are already highly permeable.

Flooding Graph Picture1

Adaptations

  • Annual culvert inspections
  • Is the culvert suitable if the water flow were to double? Triple?
  • Permeable asphalt
    • 2-3 times more expensive that regular pavement
    • Save on stormwater instillations
    • must be above the normal water sample
    • may save on de-icing during winter months
    • may be an option for parking lots in low lying areas
  • Vegetated Grid system
    • Grids made from plastic or concrete over soils and drainage material, and low maintenance grass is planted in the voids
  • Great for low traffic paring lots or roadways

Protect Wetlands

Green Solutions

  • Depression in a low lying area with plants that can tolerate water and are native to the area
  • Water collets in the depression and can penetrate the ground slowly more naturally rather than quickly entering the storm drains
  • Absorbs 30-40% more water than a lawn
  • Prevents localized flooding and also provides a habitat for various wildlife (birds, Bees)
  •  
  • Used in cities with storm run off issues
  • Made of a permeable liner, ravel layer, soil layer with plants, shrubs, trees
  • Allows water to slowly seep into the groundwater
  • Usually has an overflow pipe in case it is over flowed
  • Cost around $8 per square foot and maintenance could be 400-500 a month, like a typical garden (weeding, replacing soil, inflow and outflow systems to be checked)
  • Works well for small-scale runoff, low flow rate
  • Slows and filters stormwater
  • Manage a specific amount of runoff from a larger area, such as a parking lot or a road
  • Linear and deep and may require engineered soils
  • Vegetated with native plants that survive both drought and high water
  • Can happen when trees fall into and across the river, which can old back water during high flows
  • Three different types, which may be effective at slowing the movement of water
  • Range from $50-200
  • Row of trees connected with an underground filtration system
  • Under sidewalk trees are growing in a trench which is layered with soil and gravel in order to hold and filter storm water

Education

  • Updating or creating flood hazard maps, taking into consideration future climate predictions
  • If community were to be isolated, what members of the community would need medical supplies, what members of the community would be most vulnerable

CASE STUDIES

SLOPE FAILURE

With increasing heavy rainfall events this often mean increasing weathering of landforms, including cliffs, river banks, hills, etc. If enough sediment is removed, then the slope may fail which could happen quite suddenly. Due to the geography and history of Newfoundland and Labrador many communities are built in bays or valleys which means that they could be at risk for the surrounding slopes to collapse.   Slope failure is often not incorporated into municipal planning due as it is not always seen as a high risk, but with increased rainfall events and an earlier/longer spring thaw it will increase the risk of this happening. In northern areas, increasing temperatures during the winter and spring months will cause permafrost thawing which could cause slumping of the landscape in areas that were previously stable. Most of the adaptations suggested in this section are ways to reinforce vulnerable areas or to protect built structures from the debris.

Adaptations

Prevent development in areas with poor drainage, flood susceptibility, and near steep slopes that are likely being eroded. This requires more data and potentially a slope risk mapping project. A mapping project will help identify which areas are hazardous and should have some form of slope management if area is already developed or to prevent future development in that area.

Slope Management

Protect Wetlands

Green Solutions

  • Depression in a low lying area with plants that can tolerate water and are native to the area
  • Water collets in the depression and can penetrate the ground slowly more naturally rather than quickly entering the storm drains
  • Absorbs 30-40% more water than a lawn
  • Prevents localized flooding and also provides a habitat for various wildlife (birds, Bees)
  •  
  • Used in cities with storm run off issues
  • Made of a permeable liner, ravel layer, soil layer with plants, shrubs, trees
  • Allows water to slowly seep into the groundwater
  • Usually has an overflow pipe in case it is over flowed
  • Cost around $8 per square foot and maintenance could be 400-500 a month, like a typical garden (weeding, replacing soil, inflow and outflow systems to be checked)
  • Works well for small-scale runoff, low flow rate
  • Slows and filters stormwater
  • Manage a specific amount of runoff from a larger area, such as a parking lot or a road
  • Linear and deep and may require engineered soils
  • Vegetated with native plants that survive both drought and high water
  • Can happen when trees fall into and across the river, which can old back water during high flows
  • Three different types, which may be effective at slowing the movement of water
  • Range from $50-200
  • Row of trees connected with an underground filtration system
  • Under sidewalk trees are growing in a trench which is layered with soil and gravel in order to hold and filter storm water

Education

  • Updating or creating flood hazard maps, taking into consideration future climate predictions
  • If community were to be isolated, what members of the community would need medical supplies, what members of the community would be most vulnerable

CASE STUDIES

WATER QUALITY

Many municipalities get their water from surface water sources such as rivers and lakes. These sources are vulnerable to climate change, as increased storms and flooding could cause an increase in turbidity and increase in organic content or other potential contaminants.

Increasing temperatures could also affect water treatment as it could mean an increase in water borne bacteria, or more harmful bacterial in the water during seasons which were not previously a concern. Increasing temperatures could also cause a water shortage and put strain on water distribution systems. In periods of drought not only will there be less input to the water source, but residents may be using more water to maintain lawns for aesthetic reasons.

Another aspect of climate change is sea level rise which could have an impact on groundwater quality due to salt water intrusion. This could impact some drinking water wells if near the coast. There have not been any cases of this in Newfoundland and Labrador, but it is not closely monitored, and is common in other parts of Atlantic Canada.

Power Fail

Water Shortage

Salt Water Intrusion

  • Saltwater intrusion is not specifically monitored provincially or federally in the Atlantic provinces
  • Elevated salt in a well does not necessarily mean salt water intrusion, it must be measured in numerous samples over a long period of time
  • Modeling ground water flow
  • Regulations to reduce pumping rates and move wells further inland (some of these regulations already exist by the provincial government)
  • Coastal environments are variable so regulations that are appropriate for one area may not be for another
  • Reduce demand for groundwater
  • Public education on reducing water usage and conservation
  • Integrate supply and demand policies
  • Artificial recharge
    • Adding water through man made systems
    • Increases the amount of fresh water to control/ prevent saltwater intrusion
    • Water is stored in permeable man-made basin which will recharge the aquifer
  • Aquifer storage and recovery (ASR)
    • Fresh water is injected into the aquifer during high supply seasons
    • Recovered during low supply
  • Barrier systems (two categories)
    • Physical barriers: low permeable material which blocks the intrusion of salt water
    • Hydraulic barriers: injecting fresh water or pumping saltwater to prevent movement of saltwater interface inland
  • Desalination
    • Salt and mineral content are removed from brackish or seawater
  • Blending
    • Desalinated water is mixed with fresh water at the surface in order to meet drinking water standards

WINTER

Winter temperatures in Newfoundland and Labrador have been increasing more than any season in the province(?). This is creating increased frequency of ice storms, rain events, freeze-thaw patterns, heavy snowfall events, and an earlier spring thaw all throughout areas of the province. An increase in frequency of the weather events and a general increase in overall winter temperatures will cause a variety of issues that municipalities must adapt to, to both preserve way of life for their residents, potentially save on future costs of damaged infrastructure, and overall increased safety and preparedness of residents. The effects of climate change will vary based on the location but can include damage to paved roadways, increased cost of ice management, long-term power outages, loss of traditional hunting paths and winter roads in the north, among others. Communities in Labrador are especially susceptible to climate change effects as a warming winter will cause less predictable ice thickness and increased precipitation which means a loss of time for traditional hunting, and gathering of firewood in vulnerable northern communities. Winter recreation activities will also be affected in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Adaptations

  • Have multiple warming stations planned with supplies
  • Have a list of residents who may be vulnerable
    • Box to tick?
    • Volunteer program? Have neighbours check on each other
  • Create emergency plan and do mock disasters
  • Encourage residents to have a back up heat source
  • Keep records of town work orders to identify problem areas
  • Keep records of complaints made to the town
  • Educate residents on proper building material for storms and provide incentives for new development and renovations
    • Connect roof to walls with nails not staples
    • Four slopped hip roofs and 30 degrees rather than a gable roof
    • Roof overhang which is less than 20 inches
    • Metal roofing
    • Shingles may not seal in the fall
  • Re-evaluate current methods
    • Possibly leasing snow clearing equipment to save on costs on maintaining own equipment, if current equipment is old
    • Hire own staff for winter maintenance
  • Make an efficient snow clearing plan for heavy snowfalls
  • Permeable/ pervious pavement requires less salt and will form less ice as well as helping drainage systems for flood. Would be suitable for parking lots

CASE STUDIES

COASTAL SENSITIVITY

Many communities in Newfoundland and Labrador are located near the coast, which could be vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased frequency of serious storms. This could cause increased erosion of a number of coastal environments. Though coastal erosion is a natural part of the land, climate change can increase the rate of erosion well past what would naturally happen. Municipalities can adapt their policies and infrastructure to prevent loss of roadways and structures to erosion, and seal level rise. Though many coastal communities are of high enough elevation to not be directly impacted by seal level rise, an increased erosion of cliff faces and damage to wharfs and marine infrastructure could still affect communities. A loss or reduction of sea ice can also increase coastal erosion.

Due to the variability of coastal environments in Newfoundland and Labrador, adaptation options will depend on the shoreline type, which could vary even within small communities.

Sandy Systems

  • Erosion
  • Sea level rise
  • Flooding
  • Storm Surges
  • Allow mobility of sand through the system, particular important for dunes
  • Reduce development near the coast especially in a dune system
  • Limit ATV and vehicle access, as frequent use compacts sand grains and increase erosion further back on the beach
  • Limit structures which impede sediment flow
  • Living shoreline/ wetland
  • Dune building
  • Plant stabilization
  • Beach nourishment
  • Buried revetment

Cobble Beaches

  • Sea level rise
  • Storm surges
  • flood management for nearby infrastructure

Bank

  • Sea level rise
  • Erosion
  • Storm surge
  • Cliff face failure (under cutting)
  • restricting land use,
  • cliff and buff stabilization
  • while rock walls may be effective at protective shorelines, in promotes shoreline squeeze and natural options would be more ideal to protect the natural ecosystem

Cliffs and Bluffs

  • Erosion
  • Sea level rise
  • Storm surge
  • Cliff face failure
  • High erosion in the gypsum cliff shorelines of southwest Newfoundland
  • Restricting land use
  • Cliff or buff stabilization through rock armouring or planting vegetation
  • Engineered revetment
  • Scour protection
  • Artificial reefs

Rocky Shores

  • Sea level rise
  • Storm surge (increased erosion)
  • little research, few engineering tools.
  • Land use planning tools, restricting development, land use changes

Salt Marches and Intertidal Habitats

  • Seal level rise
  • Erosion
  • Sea level squeeze
  • Allow for salt marsh growth (protect areas around it- as sea levels rise, salt marsh will move further inland, protection these areas will act as a flood management strategy)
  • Protect vegetation

CASE STUDIES