Canada's top 10 weather events for 2021 – report

Weather agency reveals the implications of the events for the future

Canada's top 10 weather events for 2021 – report

Catastrophe & Flood

By Lyle Adriano

Weather agency Environment and Climate Change Canada (Environment Canada) has released its list of the top weather events of 2021 – a year that has worryingly broken all sorts of catastrophe records.

“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 around the world, not just in Canada.

“There was no new types of weather this year – our grandparents coped with the same rain, heat, floods, fires and drought,” the report noted. “But the extremes were of a different nature than in the past. They were more widespread, intense, frequent and impactful.”

The top weather events of 2021, as ranked by Environment Canada, are:

  1. The heatwave that struck BC in late June, with temperatures reaching as high as 50 °C.
  2. Flooding that hit BC 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.
  3. Severe drought across Canada – it was one of the driest summers in 75 years; affected areas include the Prairies, BC, Quebec, and Ontario.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. The various EF2 tornadoes that hit Quebec in June and Ontario in July.
  7. The Arctic blast that left parts of Canada in a deep freeze in February.
  8. The July hailstorm that occurred in Calgary, which led to $555 million in insurance claims.
  9. Hurricane Larry, which caused widespread power outages in Newfoundland in September.
  10. An “Alberta clipper” (a fast, low-pressure system)during the second week of January that brought winds in excess of 100 km/h to southern and central Alberta, as well as southern Saskatchewan.

Notably, British Columbia was affected by the top five disasters on the list. This has led Environment Canada to label the province “ground zero for weather catastrophes.”

Environment Canada noted that 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 (CatIQ), which said that there were 13 major catastrophic weather events with billions of dollars in insured losses. Environment Canada warned that 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.”

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 (around CA$135.07 billion) – the fourth highest loss on record since 1970.

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