Climate Projections for Metro Vancouver

Temperatures in Metro Vancouver are warming. Global climate models project an average increase of about 3°C in our region by the 2050s. Metro Vancouver’s ability to adapt to climate change requires specific information on how changes in temperature and precipitation will play out locally, how expected changes may vary throughout the seasons, and about new climate extremes. Work has been completed by the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC) to understand the details of how our climate may change by the 2050s and 2080s. High-level changes for temperature and precipitation for the 2050s indicate that as our climate warms, our region can expect more than a doubling in the number of summer days above 25°C, from an average of 22 days per year to 55 days per year. The 1-in-20 hottest temperature (i.e., a temperature that has a 5% chance of occurring in any year) is projected to increase from 34°C to 38°C by the 2050s. This projected warming has implications for future energy supply, as heating demand for buildings will decrease by 29%, while cooling demand will increase to nearly 6 times what is currently required. This warming also translates into changes that are important to our ecosystems, including a 20% increase in the length of the growing season and a 45% increase in growing degree days. Warmer winters mean the region will experience a 60% decrease in the number of frost days, affecting ecosystems, infrastructure, and our economy. A modest 5% increase in annual precipitation is projected in our region by the 2050s, though indications of when that precipitation will occur are projected to change in important ways. October and November are expected to see the greatest increase in precipitation, with precipitation expected to fall increasingly during extreme events. Approximately 30% more precipitation can be expected to fall on the 95th percentile wettest days, and approximately 60% more on the 99th percentile wettest days. The amount of rain falling in a 1-in-20 event could increase by 30% by the 2050s. Despite the projected increased intensity of wet events, the amount of rain in summer is expected to decrease by 20%, lengthening dry-spell duration by about 20%, from 21 consecutive days to 26 days. Most of the projected climate changes described in this report will be felt more or less uniformly throughout the region. Certain impacts, however, may differ substantially between low-lying areas where the majority of the population is situated, and high elevations such as the slopes of the North Shore. In particular, the wettest areas in the local mountains will become even wetter. However, with warmer temperatures and more precipitation falling as rain, the April 1 snowpack depth in the watersheds is projected to decrease almost 60% by the 2050s. The most dramatic regional differences are for frost days and growing-season length, where high elevations show about double the change of low elevations, because temperatures will rise above thresholds that were rarely experienced in the past. The projected changes to climate will have multiple impacts in our region.

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