In Sackville, N.B. and the surrounding area, the words Saxby Gale can still
inspire shivers of terror.
The tropical storm struck overnight on October 5, 1869, leaving widespread
destruction in its wake. Storm surges 1.8 metres tall, combined with a high
tide, sent water rushing over the dykes at the Tantramar Marsh. According to
the Canadian Hurricane Centre, many people and farm animals drowned in the floods
and hundreds of boats were beached when the waters receded.
If a storm of the same magnitude were to hit today, "it would cause so much
more damage," says Sabrina Hood, a Dalhousie
master's student in planning.
"The water would move in very quickly."
Ms. Hood, from Stanley, N.B., and Amanda Kosloski, from Richmond Hill, Ont.,
were each awarded $5,000 fellowships, offered jointly through Natural Resources
Canada, Canadian Institute of Planners and Association of Canadian University
Planning Program. They are conducting research to plan for climate change -
Ms. Hood in the Tantramar region and Ms. Kosloski along Halifax Harbour.
The rural Tantramar region is just as vulnerable, and probably even more so,
compared to 138 years ago. It's where the TransCanada Highway connecting
New Brunswick and Nova Scotia goes through, along with the CN Rail Line. The
dykes - built by the original Acadian settlers to transform tidal wetlands into
rich farmland - are virtually unchanged since the 17th century.
With the area at high risk because of climate change, the 22-year-old Dalhousie
student is trying to determine what needs to be done: if dykes need to be reinforced
or if salt marshes should be reclaimed. The Tantramar District Planning Commission
is working on a rural plan and is interested in Ms. Hood's conclusions.
"The area is unplanned - it's mostly farmland - and
planning is really going to take a role as the commission draws up its plan,"
says Ms. Hood.
Meanwhile, Amanda Kosloski's research is looking at how climate change
might affect land use along Halifax Harbour, from the Macdonald Bridge to Woodside
Ferry Terminal on the Dartmouth side. Should wharves be modified, sea walls
reinforced or development restricted? She's working with scientists from
Natural Resources Canada and municipal planners with Halifax Regional Municipality.
Halifax Harbour may be vulnerable to rising sea levels. Nova Scotia is anticipating
the high-tide mark on the Atlantic coast will be at least 70 centimetres higher
by the next century: that's a projected sea level rise of 40 centimetres
coupled with the land subsiding by 30 centimetres. Melting glaciers, a melting
ice cap and the fact that warmer water takes up more volume than cold are behind
But climate change isn't a far-off concept: significant weather events
such as the spring flood of 2003, Hurricane Juan in September 2003 and White
Juan in February 2004 indicates climate change is already affecting Nova Scotia.
"As planners, our job is to think ahead," says Ms. Kosloski, a
26-year-old in the second year of her master's degree. "We can have
a hand in preventing potential problems."