Senior Climatologist, David Phillips (L) and Manager of Bruce
Tourism, Chris Hughes (R)
David Phillips, well-known and
widely-recognized climatologist, spoke at the recent Bruce Tourism
conference held Wednesday at the CAW in Port Elgin.
Phillips, official spokesman for Environment Canada's Meteorological
Service, graduated from the University of Windsor in 1967 and began to
work at Transport Canada's Meteorological Branch to undertake research
on the Great Lakes. His work involved using climatological data to offer
answers regarding climatic records. Urban planners for instance use the
data to assess a proposed airport location. Phillips has produced many
papers, reports and books revolving around climate and weather. His
three books, The Climates of Canada, Blame it on the Weather and The Day
Niagara Falls Ran Dry are widely read and his most recent endeavour, The
Canadian Weather Trivia Calendar, has been a best seller.
His extensive work has garnered him the Patterson Medal for
Distinguished Service to Meteorology in Canada, two honorary doctorates
from Waterloo and Nipissing Universities, two Public Service Merit
Awards and the Order of Canada.
"Canadians are both disgusted with the weather and, at the same, proud
of it," says Phillips. "Weather here is a social lubricant that keeps
life moving and conversations going. Our climate has also made Canadians
a creative and inventive people. We've given the world, the snowmobile,
the foghorn, asphalt and the list goes on. It is the changeability that
has driven the Canadian fashion world. Look in any wardrobe and you will
every conceivable weather related garment ... halter tops to toques,
parkas to shorts. We still live in one of the safest and healthiest
climates in the world."
According to Phillips, the British have the Royals, the Americans have
Hollywood and Canada has weather. "Nationally and globally," he says,
"we are seeing more weather related disasters that have gone up
exponentially. Is this cyclical? Is this our fault because of what comes
out of our tailpipes and smokestacks? Scientists are still discussing
"What has changed," he points out, "is that are more of us
and we are changing the planet. We are diverting rivers,
cutting down forests, urbanizing grasslands. You can't do
all that and not have a profound affect on climate. Where we
looked at data from the past hundred years to plan for the
future, change is occurring so quickly that we should only
be looking at the past 10 years. We must be more forward
thinking but we now cannot stop CO2 and greenhouse gases
because they are measured in centuries. We now have to adapt
and live with the weather we are going to get."
Phillips who has vacationed in Bruce County and,
particularly, Port Elgin, for 20 years, is very familiar
with the climate of the area. When questioned by the
audience about the winter coming, Phillips said that it will
depend on the strength of El Nino out in the Pacific. "The
Jet Stream will be affected but I'm reluctant to say it's
going to be good or bad. While more Pacific air generally
means less snow in B.C. and the Prairies, it often stalls
around Winnipeg allowing cold Arctic air to be drawn down
through the Great Lakes. If the Great Lakes remain open this
winter, there will be more snow come February."
He also explained why it takes Environment Canada so long to
declare that damage caused is from a tornado. "We've learned
that there are micro-bursts and there are tornadoes. A
micro-burst is a straight line while a tornado has a twist.
The resulting damage is quite different from trees being
bent all in one direction to scattered destruction.
Therefore, for scientific and data reasons, we have to first
assess that damage and then arrive at a conclusion."
With tourism playing a key role in the economy, second only
to agriculture in Bruce and Grey Counties, Phillips said
that it's becoming a real challenge for those involved in
the tourism industry. "In the end," he said, "I go back to
the fact that we need to adapt and live more with the
"It's not all doom and gloom however, even though our Arctic
ice is rapidly melting and we probably won't have any
glaciers left in another 20 years. I am very optimistic
about the future and I think we will do what is right. The
global community came together on the recent economic
meltdown and I think it will do so on the environment as