Climate Change in Maple Ridge
Here in Maple Ridge, we are located further from the coast than other Metro Vancouver municipalities, so we will likely see fewer obvious impacts of sea level rise. Unfortunately, this does not mean that our city will be completely unaffected. The Fraser River borders Maple Ridge to the South, and there is a significant chance that an increase in sea level will push salty ocean water further upstream, increasing the water levels of the river. Flood risk from the Fraser is also exacerbated by a flow increase; caused by heavier rains and increased alpine snowmelt. With an expected increase in the incidence of extreme weather events, these factors give rise to a dangerous situation where many areas adjacent to the river will be at a greater risk of flooding.
Beyond an increase in flood risk, climate change will increase the temperature by several degrees and reduce rainfall during the dry summer months. This puts forested areas throughout the province at an incredible risk of fires, as drought conditions make trees more susceptible to combustion, and water shortages hamper the ability of fire fighters to contain the flames. For agriculture, a higher temperature could benefit Maple Ridge, as a longer growing season would allow farmers to grow crops almost year round. Despite this, agriculture systems are more likely to suffer from a changing climate because the irrigation systems upon which they depend will become increasingly strained as it gets warmer. With less winter snowpack available to supply the region’s freshwater reservoirs and with a growing population increasing the demand for fresh water, it is not unreasonable to expect future water shortages, similar to the one we experienced in the summer of 2015.
In the future, agriculture may also be impacted by an increased incidence of crop-damaging pests. Shorter, milder winters mean that fewer pest species will die off, allowing populations to increase and new species to settle in the region. While it is likely that a warmer climate will increase the prevalence of agricultural pests, the exact effects that they will have here in Maple Ridge is unpredictable at this point.
Generally speaking, in the future the city expects wetter, milder winters and much hotter, drier summers. The health impacts of these changes have not been fully analyzed, but hotter summers are likely to enhance the urban heat island effect. This effect results from concrete and asphalt storing thermal energy during the day and releasing it at night, preventing the urban area from cooling once the sun goes down. It is particularly dangerous to those vulnerable to heat stress, such as seniors, those without homes or adequate shelter, infants, and individuals with respiratory illnesses.