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Renowned Climatologist at Conference at the CAW Centre

Science

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 it."

 


"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 climate."

"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 well."


 

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Thursday, October 22, 2009