Much of eastern Canada is baking in dramatically high temperatures, a fact which underlines how climate change is set to affect the giant country, a leading environmental expert said Wednesday.
OTTAWA Much of eastern Canada is baking in dramatically high temperatures, a fact which underlines how climate change is set to affect the giant country, a leading environmental expert said Wednesday.
The temperature in the capital Ottawa hit 27.7 degrees Celsius (81.9 degrees) Tuesday, a full 12 degrees Celsius above the average for the time of year and 1.5 degrees above the previous record set in 1951.
The unusual heat affected much of the central province of Ontario, as well as Quebec to the east and the Atlantic provinces. Temperatures in the New Brunswick capital of Fredericton were set to hit 25 degrees Celsius Thursday, some 10 degrees warmer than normal.
"It takes a lot for me to shake my head about the weather, but the thing that stands out most in my mind about this, is the relentlessness of it. It started in June and it is here in October," said David Phillips, senior climatologist at Canada's federal environment ministry.
"June, July, August, September -- never have we been so warm in those four months here in Ontario and parts of Quebec," he told Reuters in an interview.
Ontario and Quebec together account for 60 percent of Canada's population of 33 million.
This year both Ottawa and Toronto -- Canada's largest city -- set records for the number of days during which the daytime temperature exceeded 30 degrees Celsius and the nighttime temperature was above 20 degrees.
A smog alert was declared in parts of Ontario Wednesday, the 52nd such warning this year. The previous record for smog days in Ontario was 28 in 2001.
Phillips said the unusually high temperatures were a sign of what future summers would be like and linked the phenomenon to climate change.
"When you take a look at the last 32 seasons in Canada -- so we're going back about eight years -- 30 of those have been warmer than normal. That is amazing... it's like staring us in the face. What more proof do you need?" he said.
"We clearly know the future is warmer, that our summers are going to be longer, they're going to be hotter."
Indeed, Phillips said warming winter temperatures were even more remarkable than those of the summer.
While the world had heated up by an average of 0.6 degrees in winter months over the last 120 years, the wintertime temperatures in Canada had increased by a full 2 degrees over just the last 60 years, Phillips said.
"The climate clearly in the second-coldest country of the world is beginning to change. Maybe we're going to begin to lose our reputation as the Great White North because we are warming up in all seasons," he said.
Canada is pipped only by Russia as the coldest country.
Still, not all of Canada was baking Wednesday. It was snowing in the prairie province of Manitoba, with some areas due to receive up to 30 cm (12 inches) of snow. Phillips said this was not unusual and predicted the snow would soon melt.
(With additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Winnipeg)