Cottage Life TV series explores link between climate change and weather catastrophes

Snowmageddon Photo Courtesy of The Weather Files: Total Impact

Season 2 of The Weather Files: Total Impact opens in St. John’s, N.L., on a winter afternoon. The exact date is January 17, 2020 and a bomb cyclone has just hit the eastern coast of Newfoundland, causing the province to be blanketed in 76 inches of snow with winds reaching speeds of 170 km/h—registering as category two hurricane speeds, according to meteorologist David Neil.

St. John’s has declared a state of emergency as “Snowmageddon” descends on the town, cutting off power to approximately 14,000 users across the province and sealing people into their homes. It’s one of the worst blizzards in Canadian history, and was ranked as Canada’s fifth biggest weather event of 2020 by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

But “Snowmageddon” is just the start. Over its eight-episode run on Cottage Life TV this winter, The Weather Files will explore catastrophes ranging from a tornado touching down in Missouri to a volcano erupting off the east coast of Java.

The point of the series, explains producer Anna Sand, is to show the different sides of severe weather—what it’s like to live through it and some of the unusual side effects. The one message that becomes blaringly clear throughout the series is how closely linked these severe weather events are to climate change.

In the case of blizzards, ice, and snow, any cottager whose visited their property in the winter is all too familiar with how treacherous these conditions can be, but according to Sand, these cold weather events are essential to the earth’s wellbeing. “There’s a lot of areas that historically had lots of snow and ice, like in the Arctic, but the cold seasons have been shortening,” she says.

For the past 13 to 14 million years, ice cover in the North and South Poles have moderated the earth’s temperature. This is because ice is able to reflect 80 per cent of the sun’s energy, but with ice melting earlier than normal, that energy is absorbed by the ocean, increasing the global climate.

In the Arctic, the loss of sea ice has been proven to cause more coastal storms, says Dustin Whalen, a Physical Scientist with Natural Resources Canada. He predicts that these storms will continue to drift south causing more frequent and severe weather events like “Snowmageddon.”

While the melting of Arctic ice is not good for the global climate, Sand points out that it has caused an interesting side effect. Artifacts, fossils, and even mummies that have been preserved in the ice for thousands of years are suddenly defrosting. “In Siberia, they found a baby woolly mammoth that was fully intact,” Sand says. Scientists were able to sequence 70 per cent of the DNA from the woolly mammoth, giving them a clearer idea of the animal’s genetic makeup.

In the Yukon, a horse bone was found that dates back 750,000 years. And a number of 10,000-year-old weapons used by early man to hunt caribou have also been found in Northern Canada.

But despite revealing a new layer of history, the melting ice is hurting the artifact’s present-day descendants. The caribou who have been migrating to the same spot for at least the last 10,000 years are being forced to find new areas to shelter, making it hard on the people who hunt them for sustenance.

“While huge blizzards in Newfoundland is having massive impacts on people and their infrastructure, in other places, like the Yukon, they’re losing the snow and ice, and it also impacts those people and their culture,” Sand says. “Nature is neither good nor bad, but how it impacts us concerns us all.”

Season 2 of The Weather Files: Total Impact premieres Monday, January 18 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, exclusively on Cottage Life.

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