Record Toronto heat signals infrastructure issues

by | Nov 12, 2012 | News

Changes to Toronto’s infrastructure are needed to cope with climate change. COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

By Julie Fish

Toronto broke two-decades old temperature records for the month of November this week.

On Sunday the city reached a high of 17.8 C, which is 12 to 13 C more than the average temperature for this time of year.

Monday the city unofficially set a another temperature record when it reached 19 C at Pearson Airport.

This could be the norm within 30 years time, according to a report released by the Toronto Environment Office and SENES Consultants Ltd., a Canadian environmental specialty services company. The study predicts these major weather changes will happen in the years 2040-2049.

Some of the changes forecasted include winters with less snow and more rain, more extreme rainstorm events and an average annual temperature increase by 4.4 C.

The study also predicts five times as many heat waves and an average of 66 days with an average temperature above 30 C, up from the current average of 22 days.

The Toronto Environmental Alliance is criticizing the municipal government,  saying it’s not taking these predictions seriously enough and Toronto’s infrastructure is not ready to deal with severe weather changes.

Director of the Toronto Environment Office, Lawson Oates, told Humber News the city has actions underway now to cope with climate change and its effects on infrastructure in the city.

“Our goal is to ensure we have good customer service in the face of extreme weather,” Oates said.

He described how automated traffic controllers have been fitted with small fans that are designed to turn on when the internal temperature reaches 25 C to reduce traffic light outages.

More costly changes are also being made said Oates, such as changing the widths of pipes to allow more storm water to pass through to prevent flooding.

In an interview with the Toronto Star, Franz Hartmann of the Toronto Environmental Alliance described what would happen today if the temperature did not go below 30C for two straight months.

“There would probably be a significant number of deaths,” Hartmann said. “Our electricity infrastructure would fail. We would have massive blackouts and who knows what else would happen to the other urban infrastructure?”

Oates said smart planning is vital to deal with climate change.

“Forward thinking is needed when we repair or build new infrastructure,” he said.