In 2011 we commented on the tragedy of Joplin, Missouri, a town that was wiped out – flattened! – by a severe tornado. The videos of the residents surveying the destruction were heart-wrenching: the speakers were in shock as they recognized they had lost everything!
Nobody wishes to exploit a tragedy as severe as the wild fires that have decimated Fort McMurray. There will be time enough to reflect on the connection between climate change and such disastrous events.
In 2012, Glenn McGillivray, then the director of the Institute of Catastrophic Loss Reduction, spoke at one of the first Climate Change Forums sponsored by 4RG. He questioned the audience as to what, as assessed by a review of compensation payments by the insurance industry, was the most expensive natural disaster in Canada.
The correct answer (which nobody guessed): a bush fire in 2011 that impacted a small Alberta town: Slave Lake. There were differences: the Slave Lake fire was fed by sparks and embers. Fort McMurray was engulfed by an advancing fire front that jumped to ignite trees.
Last year it was British Columbia that was hit by severe forest fires. Premier Clark blamed the destruction on climate change. This year BC was unable to assist in fighting the Fort McMurray fire as its resources were fully occupied in their own province.
In connection with Joplin, we invited readers to follow this link for an interview with Stu Ostro, a Senior Meteorologist of the US Weather Channel. He was a sceptic when it came to climate change, and still defends scepticism as a healthy foundation for scientific studies.
But from his studies of extreme weather events over the years, Ostro became convinced that the natural variability of the weather could not explain what he was observing. Climate and weather are intimately and inexorably linked, and the trend to more extreme weather has its origin in climate change.
Next Week: Conclusions to be drawn