In New-Brunswick, flood and drought are becoming not only increasingly common, but more intense and less predictable. The communities located in the Cocagne watershed are no exception.

In New-Brunswick, flood and drought are becoming not only increasingly common, but more intense and less predictable. The communities located in the Cocagne watershed are no exception. Over the last few years, communities in South-East New Brunswick experienced episodes of drought (2016, 2017, 2018); freezing rain and ice storms in Kent County (January 2017); and flooding due to spring thaw and intense precipitation.

Pont Cocagne
To deal with these extreme climatic events effectively, we need to be able to predict these risks, and to be adequately prepared for water shortages or surpluses as they occur.

Analyzing climatic trends and risks

The Pays de Cocagne Sustainable Group in collaboration with researchers from the University of Moncton’s Geography Department undertook a climate analysis of the Cocagne watershed.

Environment Canada weather stations do not exist on the watershed territory. The data for the study therefore came from weather stations adjacent to the watershed area.

Stations météo
Geographical distribution of the meteorological stations used in the study, displaying the beginning and final years of data collection. The Cocagne Watershed area is delineated in pink.

The study has identified two main climatic risks that we can expect in the future:
  1. increased precipitation and
  2. rising temperatures and increased heat waves.

Increase in Annual Total Precipitation

In future decades, precipitation is expected to increase across the entire watershed, by about 150 mm to about 200 mm, with an incremental increase at the end of the century.

Stations météo
Annual total precipitation forecast in the Cocagne watershed, during the period 2071-2100.

In short, the increase in precipitation will have an impact on tourism, outdoor leisure activities, agriculture, as well as construction and maintenance of buildings, roads and infrastructure.

Rising Temperatures and Increased Heat Waves

The climate analysis shows that maximum temperatures during the day, as well as at night, tend to shift towards warmer temperatures. In other words, the days and the nights get warmer.

During the summer…

Heatwaves will become more frequent, drawn-out and intense due to climate change. Heat stroke, dehydration, cardiovascular disease, and other temperature-related illnesses are on the rise, especially amongst vulnerable populations. Extended heat also increases the demand for cooling, which in turn increases electricity costs in summer, and the risk of food and water-borne contamination.

The World Meteorological Organization (2015) guidance about the definition of a heatwave is : marked unusual hot weather over a region persisting for at least two consecutive days during the hot period of the year, based on local climatological conditions, with thermal conditions recorded above given thresholds.

Réf World Meteorological Organization. (2015). Guidelines on the definition and monitoring of extreme weather and climate events.

The Growing Degree Days (GDD) are calculated as the cumulative sum of productive temperatures for crop growth (Atlas Climatique, 2019). In future predictions, GDD values rise everywhere in New Brunswick.

A significantly longer growing season is likely to offer new opportunities for farmers, horticulturists and gardeners. At the same time, growers will need to be prepared regarding how to deal with new pests, diseases, and water management methods suited to a warmer environment. Competition for water resources may be expected to increase, while simultaneously the available water resources may diminish.

Grande Digue ferme

During the winter …

Observations of temperature over 15 days indicate that minimum temperatures are increasing. Consequently, in winter snowfall can more frequently turn into freezing rain.

More freeze-thaw cycles may require increased use of road salt and vehicle weight restriction periods. Increased freeze-thaw activity in winter can be harmful for plants and wildlife by breaking dormancy and increasing the damage caused by subsequent cold spells. The effects are likely to impact the maple syrup industry, forest management, and road maintenance.