Winter sweetness: not necessarily good news
The month of December 2022 was mild and the beginning of January 2023 was also.
Winter 2022-2023 already stands out as being particularly mild. However, even if for some Quebecers this represents a respite from the usual freezing winters, this mildness is not without consequence.
Over the period from January 1 to 12, the average minimum temperature in Montreal has summer of -12.5°C and the average maximum temperature of -4.6°C. These temperatures are respectively 7.7°C and 4.4°C higher than normal for the season. The coldest temperature recorded was -12.8°C.
December 2022 was also between 3°C and 4°C above seasonal norms. Mild temperatures that are more and more likely to be repeated.
Impacts on marine biodiversity
“Right now, it's hard to do point-in-time portraits. What we do know is that the St. Lawrence River is getting warmer,” says marine biologist Anne-Marie Asselin. The latter is also the Executive Director and co-founder of the Blue Organization, a Montreal-based organization that works to protect the environment, particularly aquatic environments.
Mrs. Asselin notices a reduction in the ice cover. “The sea ice protects the shores,” she explains. However, liquid water is observed all year round. The water will then eat away at the walls and the erosion will accelerate. The biologist cites the Îles-de-la-Madeleine as an example of a place where erosion is increasingly strong. She specifies that this phenomenon concerns rivers, the river, the estuary and the sea.
Erosion, accompanied by increasingly warm waters, therefore more oxygenated, and increasingly luminous , is explained by the melting of the pack ice. Aquatic environments are thus a “universe in profound change”, observes Anne-Marie Asselin, who indicates that “these ecosystems are the result of thousands of years of evolution and that they change rapidly. »
The St. Lawrence River would already be changing. During an expedition last September and October, the Blue Organization did not observe any whales, without being able to link this absence to aquatic warming, given the number of factors. The absence of marine mammals worries the co-founder of the organization, while they are at the top of the food chain. She points out that “Quebec has one of the largest freshwater reserves in the world” and therefore “our impact is major”.
Challenges for agriculture
Olivier Sonnentag, who teaches geography at the University of Montreal, draws attention to the fact that winter mildness will lead to earlier photosynthesis for vegetation. This would have an impact on agricultural practices and flooding, according to the researcher.
Floods are also influenced by the fact that it will rain more on the snow cover, as Mr. Sonnentag notes, but also that the banks are eroding, as Anne-Marie Asselin argues.
< p>Furthermore, if the floods could become more frequent, the droughts too. “There could be a lot of droughts in Montérégie, which is the breadbasket of Quebec, while some areas would be more flooded. It may be necessary to move agriculture elsewhere, noted Ms. Asselin. But it's all very hard to predict,” she said.
The end of a winter nation?
From her point of view as a Quebecer and not as a researcher, Anne-Marie Asselin also remarks that these increasingly mild winters are affecting the morale of the province's inhabitants. Beyond feelings about a less cold and therefore less snowy winter, the consequences are very real for winter activities.
On January 13, all outdoor rinks in the boroughs of Anjou, L’Ile-Bizard-Sainte-Geneviève, Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Plateau-Mont-Royal, Mercier- Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Pierrefonds-Roxboro, Montreal-North, Rivière-des-Prairies-Pointe-aux-Trembles, Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie, Verdun, Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension and de Lachine are closed. The popular recreational rinks in Maisonneuve and Lafontaine parks are also still closed.
Many cross-country ski trails across all boroughs are also not open. And if the trails in Mount Royal Park, which are among the busiest, are open, the same cannot be said for those in Frédéric-Back Park.
Alpine skiing is also affected mild, especially south of Montreal. In the Eastern Townships, only 37% of the area of Mont Orford is open to skiers, Owl’s Head has 13 open trails out of 50 and Mont Sutton, only 9 out of a total of 60. Fortunately, the snowstorm currently affecting Quebec could bring precious centimeters of powder to these resorts.