If climate change continues the way it is, major changes could be coming to Canada's territories. You definitely don't think of the arctic and wildfires together but that could soon be the case. Canadian arctic climate change will mean wildfires and severe weather.

According to a new study published in the November 2019 issue of Nature Climate Change, the thawing of permafrost in Canada's arctic will cause "abrupt" climate change in the region that will happen with "little or no warning."

One of the ways the climate will change abruptly is by wildfires in the Northwest Territories and Yukon which could get worse continuously year after year.

"Suddenly we start getting fires that are twice as intense as before, so it's easy to see how that affects the ecosystems," said Bernardo Teufel, one of the study's authors and a PhD student at McGill University, to the CBC.

The study argues that these abrupt changes to arctic permafrost threaten northern development in Canada.

Permafrost is like a barrier that stops the movement of water.

The wildfires that will come with these changes are a result of the loss of permafrost which, when reduced or completely gone, will allow water to move deeper into the soil. 

That means the surface will be dry and dry land is a combustible material, something needed for wildfires to happen. 

The wildfires in the Northwest Territories and Yukon could double in severity from year to year and stay at that high rate of severity. 

As permafrost thaws, Canada's arctic region will see more severe weather and experience an increase in heavy rainfall, more lighting and less humid summers. 

With permafrost allowing water to move deeper into the soil, there is a greater flood risk during snowmelt and heavy rainfalls as the ground is already saturated.

"The fact that these changes are projected to occur abruptly further increases the challenges associated with climate change adaptation and potential retrofitting measures," the study stated.

"One of the main takeaways is just to not keep this idea that climate change is going to be slow or that climate change is not a problem until the end of the century," said Teufel.

Rapid changes to the climate could lead to bad situations for the region as roads, buildings and other infrastructure were designed and built for the current climate. 

Teufel also said that some communities are already noticing changes while others will see them within the next few decades.

But all hope is not lost.

The study mentions that these impacts could be slowed if global warming, which leads to permafrost thaw, is limited. 


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