Climatic Armageddon?

By Lorne Gunter, Edmonton Sun

On Sunday, Alberta Premier Alison Redford declared the 2013 Bow and Elbow rivers flood the worst in the province’s history.

Certainly, if one of your loved ones was killed by the floodwaters, it was the worst flood in your history.

Similarly if your home was flooded out, it was a devastating event.

And Premier Redford may be correct if we’re looking at the number of Albertans displaced by the flooding or the value of property damage.

At one point last weekend, more than 120,000 Albertans were under mandatory evacuation orders. That’s nearly 8% of all southern Albertans.

It’s hard to calculate the cost of the damage caused by the suddenly surging rivers choked with snowmelt, rainwater, silt and debris, as they came raging out of the Rockies and their foothills aimed squarely at the broad plains below.

Until building managers, structural engineers and insurance assessors can get into downtown Calgary and see the damage for themselves, there will be no way to estimate the full cost.

Calgary’s iconic Saddledome arena became a giant punchbowl, flooded almost to the top of the first tier of seats.

Light rapid transit rails on the south line of Calgary’s C-Train were twisted by the force of the torrent.

And who knows how many elevator motors, power plants, transformers and air-circulation systems were located in the basements of high-rises and have been fried beyond repair?

Stables and barns at Calgary’s stampede grounds were under two metres or more of water.

So in terms of the monetary cost to Albertans and to the provincial government, this probably was the worst flood in our province’s history.

But as a natural phenomenon, it wasn’t the worst.

Why quibble about such a fact at a time like this?

Because climate-change alarmists, such as David Suzuki, are claiming the floods are a result of global warming.

They are predicting more and worse floods in the future if we don’t radically alter our lifestyles to cut down on greenhouse emissions.

Just as hurricanes are not increasing in number or intensity, nor tornados, nor droughts, neither are floods, despite the alarmists’ dire claims to the contrary.

Periodic major floods are one of the ways nature fertilizes and replenishes the topsoil on the Prairies.

Rich silt is lifted from the mountains by spring runoff and dumped by rivers as they flow eastward. When the spring rains and spring snowcap-melt in the Rockies occur at the same time, it floods.

According to a study done at the University of Calgary following Alberta’s last major flood year in 2005, there were eight springs in the 20th century with weather and snowpack conditions resembling last week’s. In six of those years — 1902, 1915, 1923, 1929, 1932 and 2005 — major flooding occurred.

Indeed, one of the reasons last week’s flooding in downtown Calgary was so remarkable is that it was the first time since the flood of ’32 that the core sustained major flooding. And back in 1932, there was far less development there — far, far less. That’s why last week’s looked much worse.

Nor was this year’s deluge worse than those early 20th-century floods just because several dams have been built since.

If we have dams and are still getting floods, then today’s floods must really be terrible. As a report for Alberta Transportation pointed out following the 2005 flood, dams along most Alberta rivers are largely useless at containing flood waters.

In 1932, the flow of the flooding Bow River through downtown Calgary was 1,520 m3/sec. Last Friday, it reached 1,642 m3/sec.

However, the worst flood on the Elbow at Calgary occurred in 1879. Then, the usually tiny river roared at 980 m3/sec. Last weekend, it reached only 616.

At the Carseland weir 40 km downstream from Calgary, the flow last weekend didn’t even reach the level of the fairly tame flood of 2005.

I’m glad the Alberta and federal governments are set to help the tens of thousands of victims of this year’s flood. But the flood is not a sign of an approaching climatic Armageddon.

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