Is the Is­land of Mon­treal safe from ex­treme flood­ing?

Montreal Times - - Front Page - By Bon­nie Wurst

Given the re­al­ity of cli­mate change and the ex­treme weather we have been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing here and glob­ally, it makes one won­der how safe we are - es­pe­cially from flood­ing on the Is­land of Mon­treal. There are many fac­tors which give cause for con­cern. The re­cent cat­a­strophic rains in Texas were un­prece­dented and the im­ages broad­cast all over the world hit hard, par­tic­u­larly here after the his­toric and record­break­ing flood last spring. How many of you would have ever imag­ined the Rivière des Prairies flow­ing up Saint-Jean Blvd. to Pier­re­fonds Blvd. and a man pad­dling his way in a ca­noe to Tim Hor­tons to or­der Tim­bits?

Global warming is not a myth - as the Pres­i­dent south of our bor­der seems to be­lieve. In fact, it has be­come an un­wel­come and undis­putable re­al­ity. Cli­mate change, a broader term, is prov­ing that car­bon pol­lu­tion does more than just warm our planet - it is also chang­ing rain and snow pat­terns and in­creas­ing the risk of in­tense storms and droughts. For ex­am­ple, just this sum­mer while rag­ing fires were burn­ing in BC, a mi­croburst storm ripped through the Mon­treal area.

It is not only ef­fect­ing weather pat­terns, but also the rise in sea level - both at an alarm­ing rate. Sci­en­tists from all over the world have been warn­ing us for decades we have to make ur­gent changes, and we are only now start­ing to un­der­stand how se­ri­ous that is.

The great­est in­di­ca­tor of global warming is the alarm­ing rate at which the po­lar ice caps are melt­ing. Data from a 2013 study, sup­ported by NASA and Euro­pean Space Agency ESA, showed that in just 20 years they melted faster than in the last 10,000 years. But more im­por­tantly, is how it trans­lates into the rise in sea lev­els.

In 2014, global sea level was 2.6 inches above the 1993 average and the level con­tin­ues to rise at a rate of about one-eighth of an inch per year. About 70% of the earth's sur­face is cov­ered in wa­ter and at the rate the sea level is ris­ing, the 30% we live on has never been more vul­ner­a­ble as it is right now - vul­ner­a­ble to flood­ing and storm surges of epic pro­por­tions.

If all the ice cov­er­ing the Antarc­tica and moun­tain glaciers around the world were to melt, sea level would rise about 70 me­ters (230 feet). Cities along coast­lines would be cov­ered and there would be a sig­nif­i­cant shrink­ing of land area. De­pend­ing on where you live and how high it is above sealevel, the threat can be great.

Let's put it into per­spec­tive for the Mon­treal Is­land.

Mon­treal at its high­est point on Mount Royal is 233 me­tres (764 feet) above sea level, but as you go down the moun­tain it be­gins to drop. Part of Outremont and Cote des Neiges is around 180 me­tres above sea level, but lower down it be­gins fall­ing to ap­prox­i­mately 166 to 154 me­tres - in­clud­ing a part of West­mount.With a 70 me­tre rise in sea level, those ar­eas would still be dry.

After that is where it be­comes ap­par­ent that if the sea level con­tin­ues to rise at the rate it is now, ar­eas from the east part of the is­land to the west end, stand­ing at 38 to 96 me­tres above sea level, would be se­ri­ously threat­ened - in­clud­ing Hochelaga de Maison­neuve, Rose­mont La Pa­trie, An­jou and St. Leonard, as well as NDG, Lower West­mount, Sain­tLau­rent, Mon­treal West, Hamp­stead, DDO, Cote St. Luc, and Kirk­land. Parts of other ar­eas closer to the edge of the is­land at only 19 to 38 me­tres above sea level, like in Pier­re­fonds/Roxboro, Dor­val, Bea­cons­field, Baie D'Urfe, Ste-Anne-deBelle­vue in the west and to­wards the east, Pointe Aux Trem­bles, Mon­treal North, St. Henri, Ver­dun, Lit­tle Bur­gundy, Griffin­town and the Old Port area - would all be com­pletely un­der wa­ter.

With all that said, it would still take the po­lar ice caps to com­pletely melt - and hope­fully ac­tions will be taken and changes in the way we live will hap­pen, well be­fore we find Mon­treal's Old Port re­lo­cated to Beaver Lake on top of the moun­tain.

Nev­er­the­less, in the present, the re­al­ity of cli­mate change is dis­con­cert­ing. Closer to home, the spring flood­ing and the re­cent storm (best de­scribed as an up­side­down tor­nado) hit the city. There was an ac­tual tor­nado in Lachute just north­west of Mon­treal and parts of On­tario have been see­ing fun­nels touch down there with reg­u­lar­ity - in­clud­ing close to Ot­tawa.

It's not just the rise in sea lev­els we should be con­cerned about - but in the present, it is also the ex­treme weather pat­terns and storm surges, of which me­te­o­rol­o­gists say will only in­crease in in­ten­sity and fre­quency.

On July 14th in 1987, more than 100 mil­lime­tres of rain fell in less than three hours dur­ing a storm, flood­ing the De­carie Ex­press­way and many other roads. What would hap­pen if the storm in Texas were to hit here? Hur­ri­cane Harry dropped up to 3 feet of rain in some ar­eas - that is 900 mil­lime­tres, fall­ing at 76 to 100 mil­lime­tres per hour. If that amount of rain fell in Mon­treal, the De­carie Ex­press­way would have be­come Rivière De­carie.

Mon­treal is also far from flat. There are dips and 'bowls' all over the is­land, in­clud­ing un­der­passes and other in­fra­struc­ture. One is­land could have turned into a thou­sand is­lands, ri­valling those of Gananoque near Kingston, On­tario.

How many of you re­mem­ber when in 2012, the storm surge from Hur­ri­cane Sandy in New York City flooded tun­nels, sub­merged sub­ways and de­stroyed homes?

Global warming and cli­mate change is a chal­lenge like no other faced by the hu­man race. It is up to us and those we have cho­sen as our lead­ers, to make the changes ur­gently needed.

Are you pre­pared for more ex­treme weather? Do you feel Mon­treal is safe from ex­treme flood­ing? And the big­ger ques­tion - can we sur­vive our own progress?

Mon­treal Spring Flood­ing - File Photo MTLTimes KieronYates

File Photo MTL Times Kieron Yates

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