Sunday, August 14, 2016

Food Security: A Comforting Delusion

Here in the eastern part of Canada, especially at this time of year, we delight in seasonal produce, especially that which can be purchased locally. Living close to the Niagara area, we enjoy such seasonal treats as cherries, strawberries, cantaloupe and corn. And despite some years of scarcity due to bad weather, we tend, I think, to take our largesse for granted. In some ways, it is as if we believe that our food grows in supermarkets.

This is not, however, a time for smugness. The fact that we Canadians take the security of our food supply as a given does not make it so. Climate change and the terrible volatility and variability that it entails should make us all the more humble and determined to do what we can to abate the worst, but there is no sign of this happening.

Watch the following and see if it doesn't shake your confidence. Start at the 7:55 mark:


  1. Lorne, I've tried without success to find some information on conditions that follow an El Nino event. The normal pattern is to swing from El Nino to ENSO Neutral to La Nina conditions. In effect we now should be in an ENSO Neutral state while waiting for a La Nina to develop.

    The news clip above has an EnviroCan spokesman claiming the drought and heatwaves in eastern Canada are part of the aftermath of the last El Nino. I just can't find anything that supports this. Also, when you consider the flash flooding through the American southwest that's something expected during an active El Nino which, as we know, has been gone for several months.

    US weather agencies have predicted a 55-60% chance of La Nina developing between August and October.

    When looking at recent severe flooding events across the American southwest, we see the same pattern Beckwith and others described. The jet stream slows to a crawl, parking heavy rain storms over an area. The atmosphere, already heated and laden with extra water vapour, drops 20" of rain in one day over Louisiana.

    We really need some analysis of what our "new normal" will be. Will parts of the country become more susceptible to drought and heatwaves? Need we prepare for some degree of agricultural disruption beyond what we've historically experienced? What is happening and what is coming? I sense a great reluctance to engage the public on these issues.

    1. I did note the Environment Canada spokesman's comments, Mound, but my reaction to it was that while we have had many El Ninos, I do not remember anything like the effects he attributes to its breakup. My own limited understanding of climate is that the effects of the recent El Ninos have been magnified due to climate change, which makes a lot of sense given that it draws its strength from a warming Pacific Ocean.

      Thanks for the links.