Oceanviewer Banner

Climate Change and Extreme Events in the Marine Environment

  • Headshot

    Greg Flato Environment Canada; University of Victoria

  • Headshot

    Gordon McBean University of Western Ontario

  • Headshot

    Dr. Bill Merryfield Environment Canada / University of Victoria

  • Headshot

    Dr. Barbara Neis Memorial University

  • Headshot

    Dr. Ronald Pelot MEOPAR

  • Headshot

    Jinyu Sheng Dalhousie University

  • Headshot

    Dr. Francis Zwiers Environment Canada / University of Victoria

Quantifying the risks associated with changes in the physical properties of the marine atmosphere and ocean (e.g. extreme wind, waves, etc.)

2.1.0 Climate Change and Extreme Events in the Marine Environment
Drs. Merryfield and Flato and their collaborators are working to quantify risks associated with the physical properties of the marine atmosphere and ocean (e.g. extreme wind, waves, etc.) The goal is to better predict future changes in the likelihood and intensity of extreme events, and to provide information that can be used for decision making by the fishing industry and coastal communities.

2.1.1 Marine Applications and Downscaling of Seasonal Climate Predictions
Dr. Merryfield is evaluating how Environment Canada's seasonal climate forecasts can be applied to marine environmental prediction. This includes assessing forecasts of ocean temperatures below the surface, and developing methods to downscale seasonal predictions to a 25 km resolution.

2.1.2 Coastal Storm Activity
Dr. Zwiers and his team are analyzing our ability to simulate and predict severe coastal storms. They are evaluating storm activity records on both coasts and will be studying the predictably of seasonal variations in storm activity. They are also assessing the ability of the latest climate models to simulate “weather bombs”, the rapidly intensifying storm systems that are often associated with extreme marine hazards.

Results show that most models underestimate bomb frequency, wind intensity and spinning motion. Zwiers’ goal is to understand what causes these model biases, to appropriately account for them when interpreting results at the smaller scales that are relevant to those working in the marine environment, and when projecting future storm activity. This understanding should also help to develop the potential to forecast seasonal variations in storm activity. More precise prediction of the frequency and intensity of weather bombs will be extremely useful for the shipping and fishing industries, search and rescue operations, and coastal communities.

2.1.3 Estimation of Extreme Wave Statistics Off the East Coast of Canada and Their Future Change 
Dr. Sheng is improving the model used to predict extreme waves in the northwest Atlantic Ocean by downscaling the resolution. By using modified wind data from Hurricane Juan (2003), he’s improving the accuracy of the wave model. The results will better forecast the future severity of waves in extreme weather conditions like hurricanes and tropical storms, allowing shipping, fishing, and other coastal stakeholders to better prepare.

A 30-year wave simulation for the northwest Atlantic is now complete. The accuracy of the model has been improved using information from Hurricane Juan. 

2.1.4 Assessing and Reducing Risk and Vulnerability to Extreme Events in Newfoundland and Labrador Fishing
Dr. Neis and her team are working to improve the occupational health and safety conditions in the fishing industry that are affected by severe marine weather and environmental change. By engaging stakeholders in the Newfoundland and Labrador commercial fishing industry and their coastal communities, the project will seek to document, map, and assess the risk of injury and fatality associated with extreme events by season, species, gear and fleet sector, and region. The results have the potential to improve risk reduction strategies and resilience systems while reducing the industry’s vulnerability.

2.1.5 Adapting to Climate Change Risks: Planning and Policy in Municipalities
Dr. McBean and his team are evaluating municipal action plans for reducing risks due to climate change. A major focus is the Nova Scotia’s Municipal Climate Change Action Plans (MCCAP); each NS municipality has developed a plan to outline how they will adapt to climate change and prepare for associated hazards including severe weather, storm surges, and sea level rise.

As NS is the only province in Canada to mandate MCCAP, this provides an excellent opportunity for a comparative analysis of the planning and policies of coastal communities. A second focus is action plans of two communities in coastal BC. Findings from these analyses will help improve the ability of government, industry, and coastal communities to prepare for the effects and impacts of climate change.  

2.1.6 Risk Analysis of the Effects of Extreme Weather Conditions and Climate Change on Commercial Fishing 
Dr. Pelot and his research team are exploring how marine weather and ice conditions affect fishing fleet safety, and in particular the risks associated with extreme weather events.  The analyses are conducted using weather data from multiple sources, Coast Guard incident data and vessel traffic information, to establish which factors significantly affect incident occurrence, severity level and incident rates.  Furthermore, using outputs from project 2.1.0 on climate change predictions in the Northwest Atlantic, we assess whether the safety of the fleets will be adversely impacted in the coming decades.


  • Environment Canada
  • Lloyd’s Register (regional office)
  • CCG - Canadian Coast Guard
  • Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction


  • George Boer Environment Canada
  • David Brickman
  • Joel Finnis Memorial University
  • Yanjun Jiao
  • Viatcheslav (Slava) Kharin Environment Canada
  • René Laprise Université du Québec à Montréal
  • Gordon McBean University of Western Ontario
  • Adam Monahan University of Victoria
  • Barbara Neis Memorial University
  • Ronald Pelot MEOPAR
  • John Scinocca
  • Jinyu Sheng Dalhousie University
  • Francis Zwiers Environment Canada / University of Victoria


  • Lanli Guo Dalhousie University
  • Woo-Sung Lee Environment Canada
  • Shangfei Lin Dalhousie University
  • Charles Lu Dalhousie University
  • Xingye Ni Dalhousie University
  • Kyoko Ohashi Dalhousie University
  • Katie Pingree-Shippee University of Victoria
  • Jonathan Raikes Western University
  • Sara Rezaee Dalhousie University
  • Christian Seiler University of Victoria
  • Shiliang Shan Dalhousie University
  • James Shewmake Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • Yi Sui Dalhousie University
  • Brennan Vogel MEOPAR
  • Pengcheng Wang Dalhousie University
  • Yuan Wang Dalhousie University


  • Laprise,René,Cholette, M., J.M. Thériault. 2015, 2015: Perspectives for very high resolution climate simulations with nested models: Illustration of potential in simulating St. Lawrence River Valley channelling winds with the fifth-generation Canadian Regional Climate Model, Climate , 3, 283-307,10.3390/cli3020283.
  • Laprise,René,Nikiema, O.. 2015, Energy Cycle Associated with Inter-member Variability in a Large Ensemble of Simulations with the Canadian RC (CRM5), Clim. Dyn.,
  • Hussherr R., Levasseur M., Lizotte M., Tremblay J.-É., Mol J., Thomas H., Gosselin M., Starr M., Miller L.A., Jarnikova T.,Schuback N. and Mucci A.. 2017, Impact of ocean acidification on Arctic phytoplankton blooms and ice-free and under-ice conditions, Biogeosciences, 10.5194/bg-2016-501, 201.
  • Zwiers,Francis,Tencer, B., Weaver, A.,. 2014, Joing Occurrence of Temperature and Precipitation Extreme Events over Canada, J. Appl. Meteor. Clim, 53, 2148-2162,
  • McBean,Gordon,Lechner, S., Jacometti, J., and Mitchison, N,. 2016, Resilience in a complex world – avoiding cross-sector collapse, International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 19, 84-91,10.1016/j.ijdrr.2016.08.006.
  • Pelot,Ronald,Rezaee,Sara ,Seiler,Christian ,Ghasemi, A.. 2016, Will commercial fishing be a safe occupation in future? A framework to quantify future fishing risks due to climate change scenarios, Weather and Climate Extremes, 13, 73-85,10.1016/j.wace.2016.08.002.
  • McBean,Gordon,Vogel,Brennan ,. 2015, Adapting to Climate Change: Local Governance, Municipal Policy and Planning in Nova Scotia, Canada , International Society for Integrated Disaster Risk Management (IDRIM),
  • McBean,Gordon,L. Zizzo, J. Kyriazis, and G. McGillivray. 2016, Analysis of Weather Modification Techniques for Hail Suppression, ICLR Report, 37 pp,
  • Sheng,Jinyu,Sui,Yi,Yan, Z., D. Tang. 2015, Changes in local oceanographic and atmospheric conditions shortly after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Ocean Dynamic, 65, 905-918,10.1007/s10236-015-0848-6.
  • McBean,Gordon,. 2015, Climate Change: Adapting to the Risks in a Changing Climate., Resource and Environmental Management in Canada, Fifth Edition, edited by Bruce Mitchell, Oxford University Press,
  • McBean,Gordon,Ajibae, I.. 2014, Climate Extremes and Housing Rights: A Political Ecology of Impacts, Early Warning and Adaptation Constraints in Slum Communities, Geoforum, 55, 76-86,
  • Hernandez-Diaz,Leticia ,Laprise,René,Sushama,Laxshmi,K Tete. 2013, Climate Projections over CORDEX Africa Domain Using the Fifth-generationl Canadian Regional Climate Model (CRCM5), Clim. Dyn.,
  • McBean,Gordon,. 2016, Climate adaptation/mitigation, The International Encyclopedia of Geography, People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology,
  • Laprise,René,Matte, D., Thériault, J.M. . 2016, Comparison between high-resolution climate simulations using single and double nesting within the Big-Brother experimental protocol, Clim. Dyn., http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00382-016-3031-9.
  • Raikes,Jonathan ,. 2015, Conceptualizing Response Capacity and Flood Action in the City of Vancouver and District of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada, Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository, Paper 3160,
  • McBean,Gordon,Oulahen,Greg,D. Shrubsole. 2015, Determinants of residential vulnerability to flood hazards in Metro Vancouver, Canada, Natural Hazards, 78(2), 939-956,10.1007/s11069-015-1751-5.
  • Hernandez-Diaz,Leticia ,Laprise,René,O. Nikiéma and K. Winger. 2017, Dynamical Downscaling with empirical correction of sea-surface conditions: Application to a CORDEX Africa simulation, Clim. Dyn., 48, 2215-2243,10.1007/s00382-016-3201-9.
  • Zwiers,Francis,Whan, K.,. 2014, Evaluation of Extreme Rainfall and Temperature over North America in CanRCM4 and CRCM5, Climate Dynamics,
  • Laprise,René,Diaconescu, E., P. Gachon, and J.F. Scinocca. 2016, Evaluation of precipitation indices over North America from various configurations of regional climate models, Atmos.-Ocean., 54, 418-439,10.1080/07055900.2016.1185005 .
  • Seiler,Christian ,Zwiers,Francis,. 2014, Explosive Cyclones in CMIP5 Climate Models, Climate Dynamics,
  • Sheng,Jinyu,Urrego-Blanco, J.. 2014, Formation and Distribution of Sea Ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence: A process-oriented study using a coupled ocean-ice model, Journal of Geophysical Research, 119, 7099-712,
  • Seiler,Christian ,Zwiers,Francis,K. I. Hodges, and J. F. Scinocca. 2017, How does dynamical downscaling affect model biases and projections of explosive extratropical cyclones along North America's Atlantic coast?, Climate Dynamics,
  • Seiler,Christian ,Zwiers,Francis,. 2015, How well do CMIP5 climate models reproduce explosive cyclones in the extratropics of the Northern Hemisphere?, Climate Dynamics, 1-16,
  • Seiler,Christian ,Zwiers,Francis,. 2015, How will climate change affect explosive cyclones in the extratropics of the Northern Hemisphere?, Climate Dynamics, 1-12,
  • McBean,Gordon,Ajibade, I., Armah, F., Zubedaar, V., Luginaah, I.. 2014, Individual and Socio-environmental Factors Associated with the Experience of Climate Change in Coastal Communities in Nigeria, Environmental Hazards: Human and Policy Dimensions,
  • Ohashi ,Kyoko,Sheng,Jinyu,. 2015, Investigating the Effect of the Physical Environment and Swimming Behaviours on the Movement of Particles in the Gulf of St. Lawrence Using an Individual-based Numerical Model, Atmosphere-Ocean,
  • Laprise,René,Clément, M., O. Nikiéma. 2016, Limited-Area Atmospheric Energetics: Illustration on a Simulation of the CRCM5 over eastern North America for December 2004, Clim. Dyn, 22 pp,10.1007/s00382-016-3198-0.
  • Sheng,Jinyu,Ji, X., J. Zheng, W. Zhang. 2015, Numerical study of seasonal circulation and variability over the inner shelf of the northern South China Sea, Ocean Dynamics, 65, 1103-1120,10.1007/s10236-015-0862-6.
  • McBean,Gordon,D. Burton, N. Catto, R. Daigle, A. Fenech, M. Fox, P. Manuel and D. Scott. 2016, Report of Expert Panel on Climate Change Adaptation, Atlantic Canada Adaptation Solutions Association, 40 pp,
  • McBean,Gordon,Raikes,Jonathan ,. 2016, Responsibility and liability in emergency management to natural disasters: A Canadian example. , International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 16: 12-18,
  • Pelot,Ronald,Rezaee,Sara ,Brooks, M. R.. 2017, Review of fishing safety policies in Canada with respect to extreme environmental conditions and climate change effects., WMU Journal of Maritime Affairs, 16, 1-17,10.1007/s13437-016-0110-z.
  • McBean,Gordon,. 2016, Science and Technology for a Sustainable Future Earth. Proceedings International Conference - Technology + Society = Future, Montenegrin Academy of Sciences and Arts, Volume 138,
  • McBean,Gordon,Ajibade, I., Armah, F., Zubedaar, V., Luginaah, I.. 2015, Self-reported Experiences of Climate Change in Nigeria: The Role of Personal and Socio-environmental factors, Climate, 3, 16-41,
  • Laprise,René,Roy, PH., Gacon, P.. 2014, Sensitivity of Seasonal Precipitation Extremes to Model Configuration of the Canadian Regional Climate Model over Easter Canada using Historical Simulations, Clim. Dyn., 43, (9-10), 2431-2453.,
  • Guo,Lanli ,Sheng,Jinyu,. 2016, Statistical estimation of extreme ocean waves over the eastern Canadian shelf from 30-year numerical wave simulation, Ocean Dynamics, 65, 1489-1507,10.1007/s10236-015-0878-y.
  • Sheng,Jinyu,. 2014, Study on Subtidal circulation and variability in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Scotian Shelf and Gulf of Maine using a nested-grid coupled ocean-ice model, Ocean Dynamic,
  • Henstra,Dan,Vogel,Brennan ,. 2015, Studying local climate adaptation: a framework for comparative policy analysis., Global environmental change, 31, 110–120,
  • Guo,Lanli ,Long,Zhenxia,Perrie,William,Sheng,Jinyu,. 2015, The Impacts of Climate Change on the Autumn North Atlantic Wave Climate, ATMOSPHERE-OCEAN, 1–19,http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07055900.2015.1103697.
  • Finnis,Joel,Pelot,Ronald,Rezaee,Sara ,. 2016, The effect of extratropical cyclone weather conditions on fishing vessel incidents’ severity level in Atlantic Canada, Journal of Safety Science, 85, 33-40,
  • Pelot,Ronald,Rezaee,Sara ,Ghasemi, A.. 2016, The effect of extreme weather conditions on commercial fishing activities and vessel incidents in Atlantic Canada, Ocean & Coastal Management, 130, 115-127,10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2016.05.011.
  • Oulahen,Greg,. 2016, The production of unequal vulnerability to flood hazards: A conceptual framework for hazards research in Canada’s cities. , The Canadian Geographer, 60(1), 82-90,10.1111/cag.12232.
  • McBean,Gordon, H. Hackmann. 2016, Transformative Research for a Sustainable Future Earth. Proceedings, CLMPS 2015,