Times & Transcript – Moncton, NB, October 17, 2000
A growing chorus
of scientists is worried that Atlantic Canada lacks the tools it needs to
monitor rising sea levels and predict disastrous storm surges.
chief of tidal analysis and predictions for Canadian Hydrographics Services
Atlantic, expects sea level to almost double between 40 cm to 70 cm this
century - with evidence that the range of tides are growing: the lows are
getting lower, the heights even higher.
“This is going to
have significant effects on the coastal community,” O’Reilly said in a recent
interview. “And all we’ve got is one lousy tidal gauge in the Fundy coastal
Hydrographics Service is the mapping and charting agency within the federal
Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Tidal gauges are
used by oceanographers to collect regular daily data about the intensity and
height of waves and tides. A measuring device, floating in a well accessible
from the shore, transmits the data electronically via phone lines.
In the past, the
region boasted a number of tidal gauges, but most have been removed with budget
cuts. New Brunswick now has three: one in Saint John, one in Escuminac, and a
gauge privately operated by Ports Canada in Belledune.
Dalhousie University are now able to predict such surges using a computer model
developed by professors Josko Bobanovic and Keith Thompson. The two were able
to predict the height of the January storm surge in Charlottetown using
information from that city’s tidal gauge, but no data was available for the
Shediac Bay area.
Saint John to the head of the Bay (of Fundy), you see a huge difference in the
tide”, says Bobanovic. “Things do change in time, particularly with a dynamic
area like Fundy.”
the models perfected to the point where it can predict the size of a surge
anywhere in Atlantic Canada, but it would be easier to do that if more tide
gauges were available to validate the model’s predictions. Right now, he’s
running the model using data on past storms -- when there were more tidal
gauges to measure the water’s height.
“It boils down to
the question - what do we want to have, not only now, but in the future?” he
O’Reilly says in
Metro Moncton, portions of Hall’s Creek and the surrounding area is the site of
a significant flood plain and is “very susceptible” to massive flooding.
However - with a
few exceptions, the most recent being the storm surge this January -
Southeastern New Brunswick hasn’t seen the results of severe storm surges
because of the dynamic nature of our tides.
“You could have
10-meter tsunami, but because it was low tide, you wouldn’t see it,” O’Reilly
out that the provincial government has a stake in disaster mitigation, yet it’s
never contributed to the installation of more tidal gauges in the Bay of Fundy.
Emergency Measures Organization and the Sciences and Reporting Branch of the
provincial Department of Environment say they don’t consider buying such
instruments a provincial responsibility.
suggests a gauge at the entrance of the Petitcodiac River would provide
important baseline information about its behaviour, given the possibility that
it could be restored, because more alterations of the river’s rhythms could
affect the coastline.
Daniel LeBlanc of Petitcodiac Riverkeeper
adds that tidal gauges could also be used to alert tourists about the expected
intensity of the tidal bore - which would quell any disappointment if their
expectations were more realistic.
“Taking it from the tourism perspective, I
think it would benefit Hopewell Rocks and Shepody Bay as an added feature for
interpretation,” LeBlanc says.
“On the Petitcodiac, one could be
integrated into a new development on the public wharf.”