Meteorologist rebuffs McKenna's claim that Ottawa is a tornado hotspot

Meteorologist rebuffs McKenna's claim that Ottawa is a tornado hotspot

A senior meteorologist with Environment Canada has rebuffed Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna’s claims that the Ottawa area is a new tornado hotbed as a result of climate change. 

Peter Kimball, Environment Canada’s warning preparedness meteorologist, debunked the claims made by then-Environment Minister McKenna during a debate on her 2019 House of Commons motion to declare a national climate emergency. 

McKenna argued, “I do not need to tell Canadians just about the science ... Let us talk about what is happening. Right here in the national capital region we have seen the impacts of climate change ... Last year in the summer, tornadoes we had never seen before hit the community ..."

According to Blacklocks Reporter, Kimball made his remarks as a guest of a podcast hosted by the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society:

“It’s not clear at all whether we’re getting more tornadoes," he said, "Possibly we’re not.”

In a report of Ottawa-Gatineau Tornadoes, Kimball wrote that the number of lightning strikes in Canada has been in decline for several years.

“It’s actually been going down,” he told the podcast. “The trend is down, which kind of does raise the question: Well, should we assume that severe weather is also going up in Canada? And the answer is unclear,” said Kimbell. “All I’m showing you is the answer may not be necessarily it is. In fact, the answer may be that it is pretty static.”

In a 2018 CBC article that posed the question “Has Eastern Ontario Become a Tornado Hotspot?” Kimball indicated that the number of tornadoes in the region was stable, year over year: 

”Kimbell said he's reluctant to conclude there could be any increase in tornadoes in the region, especially since historic data was collected in such a different way than it is now.

He said Ontario typically sees 12 to 13 tornadoes in a given year, mostly between Windsor and Barrie, and last year, despite the tornado that surprised Orléans, was a relatively calm year overall.

A 2018 report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change backs Kimball’s findings, stating that:

“There is medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized losses have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change ...

The statement about the absence of trends in impacts attributable to natural or anthropogenic climate change holds for tropical and extratropical storms and tornadoes."