Ottawa in 2050: Changing Seasons

Climate change means earlier spring, later fall, more free-thaw cycles in winter, fewer days below -10 degrees Celsius and shorter winters with less snow. The top risks from changing seasons are more invasive species, pests and diseases, more cases of tick disease and West Nile virus, reduced winter activities and tourism, damage to roads and buildings from freeze-thaw and impacts to biodiversity and natural areas.

Average temperatures are increasing across all seasons causing their typical characteristics to change.

What we are expecting

By the 2050s, under a high-emission scenario, seasons in the National Capital Region are projected to change in the following ways.

  • Earlier springs – the last day of spring frost will start two weeks earlier
  • Later falls – the first day of fall frost will be three weeks later
  • Shorter winters – winter will be shorter by five weeks
  • Shift in freeze-thaw cycles – winter temperatures will hover around 0 degrees Celsius more frequently in the future. Winter freeze events will increase by 33 per cent
  • Decrease in snowfall – the annual total snowfall will decrease by 20 per cent.
  • Shorter snow season – the first snowfall will be later in the year, and the last snowfall will be earlier. As a result, the number of days with snow cover is projected to decrease from the current 115 days to 72.

You can find out more details of what to expect in the 2030s and 2080s in the Summary of the Future Climate in Canada’s Capital Region.

What are the top risks from changing seasons?

  • More invasive species, pests and diseases harming our natural environment and agricultural areas
  • Increase in cases of Lyme disease, West Nile virus and possibly other diseases as extended warmer seasons enable increased tick and mosquito populations. Other disease that are not currently prevalent in our region could also increase.
  • Increased slips and falls in icy conditions from increased winter freeze-thaw.
  • Damage to roads, buildings and other infrastructure from increased winter freeze-thaw and freezing rain, leading to more maintenance requirements and increased risk to users.
  • More pressures on parks and beaches from increased use.
  • Decline of winter tourism and recreation as less snow and warmer conditions mean reduced opportunities for activities such as skating, skiing and snowshoeing.

More information about the climate impacts facing Ottawa is available in the Climate Vulnerability and Risk Assessment.

Who is most vulnerable?

Warmer temperatures put everyone at risk. Outdoor workers and individuals that spend a significant time outdoors are at increased risk of Lyme disease and West Nile virus. Pedestrians are at increased risk of slips and falls due to increased icy conditions, and persons with limited mobility may be more isolated.

How can you prepare?

We all have a role to play in preparing for the impacts of changing weather patterns and extreme events. Find out what you can do, what the City is doing and visit the Resource Hub (coming soon) where we have additional resources that can help communities prepare for climate change.

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