Canada Rethinks "Atmospheric River" Risk Ratings

A major initiative after last year's catastrophic floods, government officials are now walking back the program.

Canada Rethinks "Atmospheric River" Risk Ratings
Photo by Jonathan Ford / Unsplash

Canada is walking back ambitious plans to model and rank a weather phenomenon that was responsible for causing billions in catastrophic flooding in British Columbia last year.

Following over $2 billion in economic losses from last year's Pacific Northwest floods, the Canadian government made a highly publicized push to create a warning system and model framework focused on the "atmospheric rivers" that fueled 2021's torrential rainfall.

But now officials are pulling back on the plans, saying that government was analyzing the "relevance'' of a system, according to reporting from the CBC.

A statement from the federal government, through Environment Canada, says that officials are not prepared to move ahead with then initiative.

"A decision on whether or not to implement such a scale as an operational information product would be premature at this time,'' Environment Canada was quoted as telling the CBC, adding that the government was going to determine the "relevance" of the system by evaluating it through a peer review process.

The announcement is an about face for Canadian officials that heralded the development modeling and monitoring atmospheric rivers, which are large regions of water vapor that can cause heavy and sustained rainfall that leads to flooding.

Last year officials were quoted as saying the system would be ready "within months" and that it would be a multi-variate ranking system that would categorize precipitation, return periods and runoff.

A recent report by climate risks assessment from British Columbia cited severe wildfire seasons and seasonal water shortage as the two highest-ranked risks facing the province over the next several decades.

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