Canada's top 10 weather stories of 2021
Environment and Climate Change Canada has released its list of the top weather events of 2021 and it was a record buster.
“Not in 26 years of releasing the Top 10 Weather Events has there been anything comparable to this year, where Canadians endured such a stream of weather extremes,” the report stated, adding that climate change is leading to more frequent and more intense disasters.
“There was no new types of weather this year – our grandparents coped with the same rain, heat, floods, fires and drought,” the report stated. “But the extremes were of a different nature than in the past. They were more widespread, intense, frequent and impactful.”
The year began with windstorms causing multi-million dollar damage across the West in early January, and ended with rain, windstorms and floods causing multi-billion dollars of damage in British Columbia. In fact, B.C. was ground zero for weather catastrophes, making the top 5.
The top weather events of 2021, as ranked by Environment Canada, are:
- The record heat under the dome that struck B.C. in late June. On June 28, 2021, Lytton, B.C., smashed the Canadian record-high temperature of 45 C for the third time in a week, hitting 49.6 C. The same week, 90 per cent of the village burned to the ground in a wildfire, killing two people.
- Flooding that hit B.C. in November; the sum of seven atmospheric rivers and three weather bombs created a “flood of floods,” in what could be the most destructive and expensive weather disaster in Canadian history.
- Severe drought across Canada – it was one of the driest summers in 75 years; affected areas include the Prairies, B.C., Quebec, and Ontario.
- This year’s wildfire season – fires were out-of-control in every province and territory except for Atlantic Canada and Nunavut; there were 2,500 more fires reported in 2021 than in 2020.
- Four heat waves; summer 2021 was the fifth warmest in the past 74 years, and there were four significant heat waves with humidex values above 40 C.
- The various EF2 tornadoes that hit Quebec in June and Ontario in July. On June 21, a tornado killed one person in Mascouche, Que., and seven tornadoes ripped through Ontario on July 15, including a destructive one in Barrie, just north of Toronto, that damaged 25 buildings and injured 11 people.
- The Arctic blast that left parts of Canada in a deep freeze in February.
- The July hailstorm that occurred in Calgary, which led to $555 million in insurance claims.
- Hurricane Larry, which caused widespread power outages in Newfoundland in September.
- An Alberta clipper (a fast, low-pressure system) during the second week of January that brought winds more than 100 km/h to southern and central Alberta, as well as southern Saskatchewan.
Environment Canada noted 2021 felt like a year where Canada even broke records for the number of records broken in terms of natural catastrophes. It cited preliminary catastrophe estimates from Catastrophe Indices and Quantification, which said there were 13 major catastrophic weather events with billions of dollars in insured losses.
Environment Canada warned insured damages only account for a fraction of the total economic cost of disasters, and that together with business losses and infrastructure costs, 2021 could “undoubtedly be the most expensive in history.”
This annual ranking of the most notable weather events was started in 1996 and is compiled by David Phillips, Senior Climatologist and Canada’s foremost weather guru. The top stories are selected by Phillips based on such factors as the severity of the event, the impact it had on Canadians, the extent of the area that was affected, and the economic repercussions.
A recent report by the Swiss Re Institute found that the extreme weather events that occurred worldwide in 2021 resulted in estimated annual insured losses of US$105 billion (CA$135.07 billion) – the fourth highest loss on record since 1970.