This year’s summer sizzle is likely an appetizer for the steaming main course to come.
There’s no doubt the season’s been a doozer, with Friday’s high of 35°C coming just short of a record.
Spring and early summer have already broken a handful of one-day, all-time highs.
But cast yourself five to 15 years into the future, perhaps even sooner.
Ongoing warming trends could mean routine 30°C summer days. They could also bring thunderstorms like the monster that slammed the U.S. Eastern Seaboard on June 29.
Some Niagara bridges could be overwhelmed by epic rainfalls, with power out for thousands.
Scenarios like these aren’t far-fetched, warns Ontario’s environment commissioner, Gord Miller.
In addition to hotter weather, we could expect periods of drought and intense storms, he says.
This despite an El Nino Pacific weather pattern that could see things cool off slightly for North America next year.
“We’re still into a trend of hotter, hotter, warmer and warmer,” Miller said. “Especially winters.”
Miller’s concern extends to Niagara’s famous icewine, which demands cold winter temperatures for frozen grapes to be picked.
He also raises concerns of big storms that fell power lines and swamp culverts and bridges. “Our infrastructure is built for a climate we no longer have,” Miller said.
Environment Canada senior climatologist Dave Phillips echoes these troubling predictions.
In Ontario, the average temperature has already risen by one degree over 65 years. That’s huge in meteorological terms.
“Stay tuned, you haven’t seen anything yet,” Phillips said, with temperatures predicted to increase by as much as 3°C as we approach the middle of the century.
Summers, as a result, will be “wilder, weirder and warmer.”
Vines and tender grapes in Niagara will also be affected by a changing climate.
Tony Shaw is a Brock University geography professor with a specialty in climatology. Shaw, also a fellow with Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, suggests our steamier summers could help some red wine varieties.
However, “we could certainly see problems with moisture stress in vines,” he said, adding irrigation is a way to battle this.
Any overall growth prospect for grapes and tender fruit in a hotter climate could be hindered by early buds and late frosts, suggests Niagara agriculture specialist Kevin Ker.
“I think we’re going to have periods of extreme warmth, extreme cold, extreme warmth.... The radical swings are going to be more dramatic,” Ker said.
“That’s what has me the most nervous.”