Understanding Hazards

Canada is exposed to a number of climatic hazards, including windstorms, tornadoes, floods, hailstorms, and ice storms, as well as the geological hazards of earthquakes and related fires.

While there are significant climatic and geological hazards in northern areas, they cause relatively little financial loss in comparison to the highly concentrated populations of the major Canadian cities of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa-Gatineau, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and Quebec City.

Damaging coastal winds, inland windstorms, and tornadoes do occur in Canada. Historically, damage from hurricanes has been rare. In 1954, however, Hurricane Hazel caused severe damage in southern Ontario, primarily as a result of flooding. If Hurricane Hazel occurred today, the potential damage could exceed anything ever experienced in Canada. In September 2003, Hurricane Juan, aided by rare conditions, reached the Canadian Maritime Provinces as a Category 2 storm, causing insured losses estimated at over CAD 100 million.

Hail damage occurs regularly, particularly in the Prairie Provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Flood and sewer backup damage can also occur, especially in spring, due to melting winter snow and Canada’s abundance of lakes and rivers. In the past, flooding has caused the greatest aggregate amount of property damage in Canada.

Earthquake damage in Canada has been minor in modern times. However, seismologists at the Geological Survey of Canada have found evidence of seismic activity in the past on a scale, if not a frequency, comparable to other earthquake-prone areas of the world. Southwestern British Columbia on the west coast and the St. Lawrence and Ottawa River valley areas in the eastern provinces of Quebec and Ontario are believed to be especially vulnerable.

The ice storm of 1998, which affected both Canada and the northeastern United States, was, at the time, one of the 30 largest worldwide losses ever recorded by the insurance industry. Still the largest Canadian loss on record, the storm left millions of people without power in the middle of winter and caused extensive property damage.

And yet, claims from these three events pale in comparison to the claims and losses that could arise from a major earthquake and related fires in British Columbia, Quebec or eastern Ontario. The potential economic damage from a major seismic event. British Columbia is estimated at CAD 30 billion, and insured losses could reach as high as CAD 15 billion, not all of which would be reinsured. The insurance loss estimate for a major earthquake in Quebec and eastern Ontario is CAD 5 billion.

(Source: The World Catastrophe Reinsurance Market: 2005, Guy Carpenter, September 2006)

Natural Disaster Health Research Network

ICLR is building a network of researchers seeking to advance knowledge about how to reduce disaster losses. We seek to involve individuals from all disciplines. We also seek to involve academic and public sector researchers. And ICLR is requesting funding to help build and maintain the network. Health Canada has partnered with ICLR to establish a research network to study the social and health impacts of disasters.

Quality, multi-disciplinary research needs to be the foundation for improved management of disaster. Please contact us to let us know about work you have completed, and your future research interests. We will work to connect researchers with others interested in complementary work, data and other supports. ICLR’s workshop program provides a forum for you to share your findings and learn about identified research needs. Participation in ICLR’s research network can also help secure financial assistance. For further information please contact info@iclr.org. Consider attaching your curriculum vitae, and please monitor this site as we advance our network program.

To address the growing challenge of climate change and the impact on Canadians with respect to landscape hazards visit www.landscapehazards.c-cairn.ca.

Natural Disaster Health Research Network (NDHRN) members interested in becoming a member of the Canadian Climate Impacts and Adaptation Research Network (C-CIARN) should click on the following link and follow the instructions on the C-CIARN website: