A wet year for the Arctic, records show

by James Hrynyshyn
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 03/97) - Among the most dramatic effects of climate change expected by scientists studying Northern climate is more rain and snow, and the latest records are showing just that.

Nineteen ninety-six was the wettest year on record across Canada since comparable record-keeping began in 1948.

And, as with other climate indicators expected to change because of fossil-fuel pollution that traps solar heat in the atmosphere, nowhere was that more true than in the N.W.T.

According to Environment Canada, 11 per cent more snow and rain fell on Canada in 1996 than would be expected during a historically average year.

The arctic tundra, however, was 33 per cent wetter than normal.

"It wasn_t necessarily that we had more rainy days, it was that we had more rain when it rained," said department scientist Henry Hengeveld.

That doesn_t mean Northerners should expect higher river and lake levels, however. A preliminary report of the Mackenzie Basin Impact Study released last year pointed out that water levels in the N.W.T. are actually falling thanks to warmer temperatures that increase evaporation rates.

The study, a six-year project carried out by several government agencies, concluded that temperatures will continue to rise and water levels will continue to fall to below historic minimums as climate change proceeds. And despite longer summers, the effect on the tourism industry is expected to be mixed at best.

A final report from the study group was expected to be released last week at a conference on the effects of climate change on British Columbia and the Yukon.