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Extreme weather is the new normal

Like it or hate it, the weather is always a conversation starter and lately it just seems like the cold or the heat, the snow or the rain will never end.

One year we see flooding and the next, it's so dry farmers can barely grow their crops and at least one climatologist says extreme weather is now the new normal.

Environment Canada Senior Climatologist David Phillips said there is no denying the weather isn't what it used to be.

"Summers were hot and winters were cold, you know? And now it's like jokers in the weather deck," he said. "They seem to be all over the place. The new norm is expect the unexpected. It's almost like a Jekyll and Hyde kind of personality, the weather."

He said we've always had adverse weather, we're just experiencing it differently.

"We think the weather has changed, but what's very obvious is that we have changed," he said. "There's more of us. We're living where we shouldn't be living necessarily, in flood plains, in avalanche zones and by the sea. These are kind of graveyards in the waiting, you know? These are areas where the risks are higher."

He pointed out that even though we seem to be smashing a new record every day, one has to remember that the climate has been changed by the concrete jungles we have built.

"When you change that surface from wooden sidewalks to parking lots and put cement and building materials and asphalt, you change the reflectivity, you change the climate," he said. "There is much more to be damaged, many more obstacles in the way."

Phillips said decades ago basements weren't used as playrooms or for multimedia units; now our increased wealth means we have more belongings that can be damaged by extreme weather.

He said Canadians should be preparing for more extreme weather by building safer cities.

"If you plan for it — and Canadians are great planners, we are great adapters — then you can prevent it from becoming a disaster," he said. "It would have a hit, but it wouldn't necessarily lead to tragic consequences by just building safer cities, by looking at the individual families, preparing for these kind of events."

He does acknowledge that global warming does play a factor, but says the evidence of that is circumstantial.

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