Ocean waves crash in a storm with dark clouds in the background.

Winds, waves, and extreme weather

Across the MaPP region, increasing intensity and frequency of storms is likely to increase inundation risk (flooding) and erosion risk to marine infrastructure, especially for low lying communities [109]. Properties along the coast also will experience increased risk of wave damage, which is associated with coastal erosion. It is highly likely that climate changes, especially during El Niño events, will lead to high coastal erosion across the entire eastern Pacific region [109].

Extreme weather events are expected to create disruptions to marine transportation lanes, potentially lead to wave and wind damage to infrastructure and utilities, and reduce access to critical services [110]. Extreme precipitation events in particular may damage fixed coastal infrastructure such as airports (e.g. Sandspit Airport on Haida Gwaii), and ports (e.g. Port of Prince Rupert), and well as affect marine transportation lanes [74,110]. Overall, climate-related impacts to marine infrastructure are likely to be higher than anticipated, as many communities in coastal BC already have infrastructure deficits that will require increased investment [91,103]. Future winter and spring sea surface height (SSH) levels are also projected to be consistently higher, which will further exacerbate the flooding impacts of sea level rise [21]. Large peak flows and storms can interrupt delivery of goods such as fuel and food to remote places. On the other hand, climate change may also offer some opportunities for the marine transportation sector: longer construction seasons and reduced winter maintenance could reduce costs and increase annual operating budgets. In the longer term, increased sea levels may mean that vessels with deeper draughts will be able to enter existing ports, perhaps an opportunity for marine shipping [110].

Ocean waves crash in a storm with dark clouds in the background.
Photo by Barb Dining.
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