Like many Canadians, Colin McCarter is awaiting his father’s arrival to celebrate the holidays with him and his family in North Bay, Ont. However, he warned his dad about the impending storm and the challenges he may face on his nearly 400-kilometre drive north from the Greater Toronto Area.

McCarter, the Canada Research Chair in Climate and Environmental Change at Nipissing University in North Bay, thinks about extreme weather a lot. His studies revolve around how disturbances like climate change impact our landscape.

Some are calling this holiday weather the storm of the century.

But this, says McCarter, is just one of the many “storms of the century” to hit Canada in the last few decades.

Climate change is driving shifts in the rain and snow patterns we experience every day. Some of the more extreme weather events are caused by a climate change-driven intensification of the water cycle. Essentially, it's “the water cycle on steroids,” he says.

“Something that we'd expect statistically to happen once every 100 years, ends up occurring once every five years or once every 10 years.”

Colin McCarter conducts environmental research in Bois-des-Bel, Que., in 2016. Photo provided by Colin McCarter

It’s hard for experts to definitively link extreme weather to climate change because there are so many variables. Science likes to have laser-like precision, linking cause and effect, which takes time. However, as time goes by and evidence builds, McCarter says the scientific community is more often speaking with one voice. “I would say there's a movement towards a consensus that climate change is driving extreme weather,” he says, and scientists are increasingly raising alarms.

“I don't think people realize just how much trouble we're in when it comes to climate change,” McCarter says.

Some are calling the weather set to hit Ontario over the holidays the storm of the century. But this is just one of the many ‘storms of the century’ to hit Canada in the last few decades, says one expert. #ExtremeWeather #ClimateChange

Canada’s Changing Climate Report released in 2019 says the country’s “climate has warmed and will warm further in the future, driven by human influence,” and this warming is “effectively irreversible.”

It may be counter-intuitive to think more snow and winter storms, like the one expected this week, are evidence of global warming, but they are. Changes in atmospheric processes drive these storms. The destabilization of the polar vortex in the Arctic pushes this cold air farther south, which then changes air temperatures. With more moisture in the air, we can expect more blizzards.

People often need clarification about climate and weather. They may think they are the same thing ― but they’re not. Climate affects weather.

Weather is short-term. If you look outside, it’s what you will see. It’s raining. It’s windy. “Wow, it’s humid out” or “it’s 33 C in Regina.”

Climate, however, is long-term. Experts look at weather patterns measured over many years.

Canada’s Changing Climate Report states the annual average temperature over northern Canada has increased by 2.3 C since 1948. As the climate warms up, these weather events are going to intensify. McCarter says that if we continue to do nothing to control climate change, we'll likely see more impacts on our quality of life.

All of Canada will be affected by this adverse weather. Graphic via Environment Canada

Environment Canada is asking people to consider altering their plans through the holiday weekend. All of Canada will be affected by this adverse weather ― from the winter storm watch stretching from the territories to B.C. and from Ontario to the East Coast to extreme cold advisories for Alberta and the Prairies.

Public Safety Canada encourages residents to make an emergency plan that includes an emergency kit with drinking water, food, medicine, a first-aid kit and a flashlight.

“This isn't an abstract scientific thing anymore. Climate change and extreme weather are occurring right now,” McCarter warns. “And it's gonna affect our children and grandchildren more than we know.”

Yet, despite a consensus on climate change, we still don't know what warming our planet has done and how it will all end.

“We just don't know. And that's kind of scary,” McCarter says.

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I agree that people just don’t understand the complexity of climate change and how it can cause foods and droughts, heat waves and much colder weather at the same time even if in different seasons or different areas. It is scary and I have watched in horror for the last 30-40 years and for the last ten at least I think we are over the tipping point. I hope not and try to live as if their is still hope, but I also think too little, far, far too late.

People who confuse weather and climate don't understand where weather comes from....and its partly a result of our reductive view of almost everything. Perhaps in our politics we can reduce everything to right and wrong, right and left........but in the natural world, everything is complex, and it is complexity that keeps it running.

We've already seen what having more moisture in the atmosphere can do to British Columbia....the last couple of years have been a crash course in the consequences of a warming climate. Atmospheric rivers unprecedented in recent history....highways washed out by mudslides from hell....helped by all that clear cutting of mountain slopes just out of sight of said highways....sons lost in seconds to those slides...

And all of that flooding following a heat dome that killed over 600 people in low rent apartments without air conditioning...

Now its Christmas and B.C. is having the Saskatchewan weather of my youth....with people stranded in Airports all over North America....Airport holidays being one end of the risk spectrum, the other being homeless folk who can't find a bed in overflowing 'emergency shelters' when the temperature dips below freezing.

You'd think we'd all have figured it out by now. But I can hardly wait for all the right wing denialist BS to hit the airwaves after the holidays. And the thing is...they have to blame it all on someone, in order to deflect the people from the real culprits.....and the actual danger.

We swear off fossil fuels asap.....and war.....and increasing wealth inequality: And we all get busy building a sustainable equitable world that protects local ecologies, or.....
We get to find out what Armageddon is really going to look like. And Merry Christmas, Happy New Year etc. etc.