Researchers raised concerns years before Grand Forks flood about climate change effects on West Kettle River

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      This morning, the lead news story has been rising water levels in the Kettle and Granby rivers, which have caused about 3,000 people to flee their homes in the Grand Forks area.

      The Granby is a tributary of the Kettle, which is a tributary of the mighty Columbia River. 

      The evidence suggests that the flooding in the Kootenay-Boundary region is even worse than what occurred in 1948.

      The root of the problem is rapidly warming spring temperatures, causing a quicker snowmelt, which is causing water levels to rise.

      This won't come as a surprise to climate scientists and water researchers who've been paying attention to the impact of more rapidly rising spring temperatures on B.C. river systems.

      Back in 1998, Rory M.M. Leith and Paul H. Whitfield wrote a paper, "Evidence of Climate Change Effects on the Hydrology of Streams in South-Central BC". It was published in the Canadian Water Resources Journal.

      They looked at six watersheds, including the West Kettle River near McCulloch from 1965 to 1983 and from 1984 to 1995.

      "It was found that spring runoff starts earlier, late summer–early fall flows are lower, and early winter flows are higher with a warmer climate," they wrote. "These changes were found to be statistically significant and are consistent with the hydrological impacts currently expected with global climate change."

      Average flows in the later period were higher in April and lower in June, July, August, and September.

      Back in 2013, UVic's Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium produced a series of reports on resource regions of B.C.

      The climate summary for the Kootenay-Boundary region noted that the complex topography ensured that the climate "varies considerably over short distances".

      The average temperature rose by just over 1° C in the 20th century. Most significantly, this rise occurred "more rapidly since the middle of the 20th century".

      From 1951 to 2009, the greatest increase occurred in the spring as opposed to any other season.

      "Summer is projected to warm more than other seasons, by 2.4°  C (1.5° C to 3.2° C by the 2050s and 3.6° C (2.1° C to 5.9° C) by the 2080s."

      The report identified other potential outcomes, including "more intense precipitation extremes, rain-on-snow events, with associated flooding, water storage, landslide and tourism impacts".

      "There may also be an increase in hot and dry summer conditions, and a longer dry season," it noted. "Animal and plant species are likely to migrate in response to the warming."

      Prolonged summer droughts also elevate the likelihood of an increase in tree mortality and the spread of invasive species.

      These are extremely serious issues for the provincial government to consider.

      Last month, the Straight published a cover story on the climate crisis following the publication of two new books on the subject by B.C. authors.

      “In summary, if we are to keep the Earth’s climate within the range humans are able to tolerate, we must leave the remaining fossil fuels in the ground,” concluded Peter Carter and Elizabeth Woodworth in Unprecedented Crime: Climate Science Denial and Game Changers for Survival. “If we do not act now we will push the climate beyond tipping points, where the situation spirals out of our control.”