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Weather patterns have changed over a lifetime because of climate change

The weather in the far north of Ontario is shifting. These changes are reflected in both the scientific findings and local observations of the land. Humans are causing the Earth's climate to change faster than usual because of pollution from oil, gas and coal. Three interacting forces are influencing changes in the climate of northern Ontario: the build up of global warming gases in the atmosphere, melting sea ice on Hudson Bay, and a changing polar front.


The climate is changing because of gas pollution building up in the atmosphere, like a heat-trapping blanket wrapped around the earth

The atmosphere is like a blanket that is wrapped around the Earth.  It protects the planet and normally keeps us at a healthy temperature.

When coal, oil, diesel or gasoline is burned to generate electrical energy or to power vehicles, we add global warming gases like carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. The more these gases build up in the atmosphere, the thicker the blanket wrapped around the earth becomes. 

The thicker the blanket gets, the more heat it traps underneath. This thick layer of pollution makes the earth warm up more than usual. 

This is also known as global warming or climate change.

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A shorter ice cover season on Hudson Bay is causing less cooling and more warming 

Every year, Hudson Bay shifts between being dominated by ice to being dominated by open water.

Thick sea ice lays over most of the surface of the Bay during winter, forming in October and November as temperatures drop. The ice breaks up in May and June, and by August the Bay is typically ice-free open water. 

The Bay is responsible for both cooling and warming at different times of the year. Cooling in spring and summer comes from cold sea breezes blowing south from the ice on the Bay. They affect the temperatures during the spring and summer growing season as far as 500 km inland.

But warmer temperatures from climate change are leading to less sea ice and causing the ice cover season on Hudson Bay to shorten. A longer open water season also makes the Bay continue to warm - this is because the dark colour of the water is better at absorbing the suns energy, while white sea ice reflects that heat.

When the ice cover season on Hudson Bay is cut short, there is less air blowing south, causing less cooling and more warming of northern Ontario and the surrounding areas. 


Changes in the position of the polar front and jet stream are causing extreme weather events

As shown on the left, cold Arctic air sits over the north end of the earth while warmer air sits over the equator. The location where cold Arctic air meets warm more southern air is called the "polar front" and is accompanied by high speed, high altitude winds known as the polar jet stream. This jet stream circles around the northern half of the earth and normally moves eastwards

Under certain temperature conditions from climate change, the polar jet stream can halt its movement causing it to change shape and weaken. Like a loose bike chain, the jet stream becomes more wobbly and gets stuck, causing cold polar air to move south, or warm air to move north.

Changes in the position of the polar front can cause prolonged and unexpected extreme weather such as drought, flooding, heat waves and cold spells. Extreme weather events like these are known to have increased in recent decades and may continue to into the future as the climate warms.