Weather Extremes
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​What is the link between extreme weather and climate change?

Climate change is causing global weather patterns to vary. With changing wind and ocean currents come changes in the frequency, strength and length of extreme weather events. Some areas may have colder winters than in the past; while others may undergo extreme heat events usually felt much further south. Flood and drought events can be devastating to areas with already fragile environments.

How do extreme weather events affect my health?

The impacts of extreme weather events can be harmful to you physically and mentally.  Physically you can be injured by contact with debris or other physical hazards. Mental health effects can be brought on by stress and trauma of experiencing an extreme event. The results of both these types of negative health impacts can be long lasting.

Wildfires can cause injuries and the smoke can affect air quality.  Poor air quality can have negative health effects.

Extreme drought can affect food production and access to clean water. A lack of easily accessible healthy food can lead to poor nutrition (particularly in at risk populations), while a lack of clean water can lead to water-borne illnesses. Flooding can lead to contaminated food, mould growth in buildings (respiratory illnesses) and the spread of insects that may carry disease (West-Nile virus, Lyme disease).

The longer term effects of these events can be even more devastating. Mental health issues and well-being can be affected at different times and range in severity. Stress, anxiety, depression, and coping with loss are all potential effects following extreme weather events.

What is Interior Health doing to help?

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are known to have an impact on climate change. Interior Health’s Energy and Environmental Sustainability department measures Interior Health’s GHG emissions, and works on reduction projects to reduce IH’s GHG emissions.  Our Energy manager and the Plant Services team work together to find ways to reduce energy use in buildings.  They replace inefficient boilers, do lighting upgrades, and look at alternative sources of energy to fuel facilities. Across Interior Health there are Sustainability Associates that promote and initiate “green” practice in their workplaces. They look for ways to make change happen among their colleagues to reduce waste, reduce energy use, and encourage more efficient transportation options.

We also work hard during extreme events to communicate important health-related information with the public. Visit Interior Health’s Emergency Information page for information about forest fires, floods, earthquakes, drinking water, air quality, and pandemics. View the toolkit for Emergency Preparedness for tips on survival kits in the case of earthquakes, wildfires, floods and for what to do during and after an emergency. For an up-to-the-minute view of current emergency situations in British Columbia, visit Health Emergency Management BC.

 

MoH     PCQO