Ottawa in 2050: Rain and snow

Infographic showing expected precipitation in Ottawa by 2050. By 2050 there will be 8 per cent more rain per year and rainy days could be 15 per cent wetter. There will be 20 per cent less snowfall, 43 fewer days with snow cover and more freezing rain in winter.

Ottawa has seen increased rainfall over the past decades, especially in spring and fall. As our climate warms, these trends will continue. There will be an increase in the amount and intensity of rain and a decrease in snow.

What we are expecting

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

Increase in total precipitation (except in summer)
The total amount of precipitation (rain and/or snow) will increase in spring, winter and fall by eight per cent. Rainfall in summer (June – September) will not increase.

Wet days will be wetter
Although the total annual precipitation will increase, this precipitation will be concentrated within the same number of ‘wet days’. The maximum amount of precipitation that falls in one day will increase by 15 per cent.

Decrease in total 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.

Increase in freezing rain and ice storms in winter
The colder months will likely see more freezing rain due to the increase of days around zero degrees Celsius. Freezing rain in spring and fall will likely decrease.

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 potential impacts?

We can expect changes in rain and snowfall to have the following impacts in Ottawa:

Increased risk of flooding
More intense rainfall, including rain in winter, can overwhelm sewer systems and increase the risk of flooding in our streets and homes.

More rainfall in the spring combined with rapid melting of snow can increase the risk of flooding along rivers and creeks.

Public health
Flooding and other extreme events negatively affect the mental and physical health of those directly affected and put an added strain on emergency services. Risk of injuries due to icy sidewalks may increase. Reduced snow could mean we see increases in active ways of getting around the city such as by biking, walking or rollerblading with associated public health benefits.

Reduced crop yields
More variable rainfall, including the risk of both droughts or flooding, can reduce crop yields.

Changes in the natural environment
More variable rainfall combined with warmer temperatures can impact the growth of trees and vegetation. Conditions may be more favourable for invasive species and other species may be at risk due to changing habitat.

Reduced winter recreation opportunities
Reduced amount of snow combined with warmer weather will negatively affect winter recreation activities such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. These winter activities provide immense value for locals, tourists and the economy.

The impacts of climate change will be looked at in further detail as part of the climate vulnerability assessment.

Find out what the City is already doing to adapt to climate change.

Have your say

How will changes in rain and snow affect you and your community? How can we prepare for these changes? Let us know by completing the survey.

Your input will help us assess how Ottawa is vulnerable to climate change and inform the development of the climate resiliency strategy.

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