Why Nova Scotia’s warm winter might not be cause for celebration

Warm winters on the East Coast might be good for the heating bills, but there are longer-term financial repercussions to the changing climate.

People in Halifax just experienced their warmest January on record, and it wasn't even close. Temperatures were five to six degrees above a 30-year average of past Januaries.

While a warm winter's day may feel like a relief for residents who pay to heat their homes, the long-term implications are nothing to celebrate.

Nova Scotia's latest climate risk assessment confirms the province is in fact "getting warmer, precipitation patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, storms are becoming more frequent and intense, and oceans are changing."

The latest example: Hurricane Fiona. It was the costliest extreme weather event ever recorded here, with damages estimated at $660 million.

"Fiona reminds us the climate will continue to change and the science backs that so therefore, what needs to happen is society, the economy, needs to adapt to that new reality and look,” Nova Scotia’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Tim Halman, told The Weather Network. “I think Nova Scotians have really known this since 2003 with Hurricane Juan. So this has been our lived experience."

Weather, by definition, is the current atmospheric conditions in a specific place and time. Climate, alternatively, is several decades of weather averaged out.

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When it comes to farming, changing precipitation patterns mean more drought conditions and weather that is less predictable. In August of 2022, the federal government announced $8.5 million in funding to help farmers across Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador learn more about soil health and build climate change resilience.

And more recently, even the wine industry in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley — which might have been considered as a beneficiary of a warmer climate — suffered major losses because of a cold snap in an otherwise unseasonably warm winter. The cost: $15 million in government funding to grape and other fruit growers whose crops were affected by the extreme cold weather.

Watch the video above to learn more about the impacts of a warming climate on Nova Scotia.

Thumbnail image: Warm and rainy conditions during winter in Halifax. (Nathan Coleman)