North Coast

The ocean covered in a swarms of floating and flying seagulls. There are tall, snowy mountains in the background. The sky is blue with white clouds.
Eulachon Season | Photo by Renny Talbot

Air temperatures in the North Coast region are projected to increase by up to 2.6°C by 2080, and the sub-region will experience more growing degree days, more frost free days, and higher winter minimum temperatures [73] (see North Coast Sub-regional Table). Rising temperatures will potentially decrease energy requirements for heating in the winter months, and potentially increase energy requirements for cooling in the summer months. Precipitation is projected to increase in the North Coast region by up to 20% in summer months, and by 10-25% in winter [73]. The increase in freshwater volume entering marine waters in this sub-region is likely to be greater than in other sub-regions due to large rivers, including the Skeena River, feeding into the marine area. This increase in freshwater volume will affect marine temperature, salinity, and stratification of nearshore surface layers[29,55]. Increasing freshwater discharge will also contribute to stronger flows in Dixon Entrance [21].

Relative sea level rise is projected to rise the most in the North Coast sub-region, specifically off Prince Rupert Harbour. Mean sea level rise projections for the port of Prince Rupert by 2100 suggest that sea levels will increase by approximately 25cm (range 13.2 – 37cm) with extremely high projections reaching 0.95-1.16m [6,44,68]. Sea level rise impacts are likely to be much higher for the North Coast when compared to southern BC, due partially to increasing precipitation in this sub-region [41,44,73].

Increasing sea levels and high water events are linked to beach erosion in this region; this impact has already been observed over the past two decades [107]. Models based on highest sea level events over the past century project that the frequency of storm-related high water events are likely to increase at twice the rate of the relative mean sea level trend for Prince Rupert, and the frequency of storm winds are also likely to significantly increase [107]. These projections will likely affect coastal communities through changes to food security,

Given the relationships among the PDO, ENSO, and low river flows, it is likely that climate-induced changes to hydrology will also occur in North Coast watersheds. Low flow conditions within the watershed can occur over the entire year, though generally are more prevalent during the late fall and early winter after summer drought. Within the context of future climate changes and related vulnerabilities of freshwater habitats, changes in the frequency, timing, and magnitude of such low flow conditions may have greater effects on salmon migration, spawning, and incubation than at present [41,112].

There are some cultural and historic sites that may be particularly likely to be affected by rising sea levels based on a recent shoreline sensitivity analysis overlaid with locations of historic First Nations sites (see North Coast Archaeological Sites Shoreline Sensitivity Map).

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