Province's new interactive flood-predicting map 'basic' but valuable, says advocate

·3 min read
Sabine Dietz, the executive director of CLIMAtlantic, a clearinghouse for climate research, says the maps are
Sabine Dietz, the executive director of CLIMAtlantic, a clearinghouse for climate research, says the maps are

New Brunswickers can now zoom in to a visual image of their homes, neighbourhoods and communities to see how likely it is that climate change will create a risk of flooding over the next several decades.

The provincial government has released a new interactive provincial flood map showing different river and coastal flooding scenarios for today and for 2100.

Sabine Dietz, the executive director of CLIMAtlantic, a clearinghouse for climate research, says the maps are "basic" but valuable.

"This is like learning your ABC's or 1 + 1 = 2. To me these are basic information. All the hard work is left now. But the hard work at least can be done based on some information that we have which we didn't have before. It's something we can visualize," she says.

Earlier this week Dietz appeared before a committee of MLAs at the legislature and urged them to come up with a new climate plan that is more "straightforward" with New Brunswickers about the impact of climate change.

The mapping helps do that, she says.

"You don't have to say 'a one in 100 storm will add two metres' or whatever. This is something that goes over most people's heads. So this is a fantastic tool to be able to visualize what happens."

The zoomable maps allow users to apply several scenarios. They can see what a one-in-20-year and a one-in-100-year flood would look like today.

And more dramatically in some communities, they can also see what a one-in-20-year and one-in-100-year flood might look like in 2100, when the planet is warmer and sea levels are higher.

In some cases the differences are dramatic. The community of Pointe-du-Chêne, near Shediac, could be cut off by water in an extreme flood today, but would be almost entirely underwater in 2100.

Communities including Shippagan and Fredericton will see much more of their downtowns underwater in 2100 than they would in a present-day flood, the maps indicate.

Siri Photography
Siri Photography

In other municipalities, even a one-in-20 year storm could be disastrous. The large traffic circle at Halls Creek in Moncton, a vital artery, would be submerged. The Trans-Canada Highway between Sackville and Amherst, Nova Scotia would also be underwater.

Users can click on any property and see its elevation and then compare that to projected flood levels.

The maps are based on the assumption that the current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions continues into the future, which will make floods and coastal storm surges more intense and more frequent.

The way the numbers have been applied to New Brunswick is not new, but it's the first time they've been turned into visual mapping for public consumption.

"It is so good to see it public. We really needed that," Dietz said.

"Now we have this one tool that gives us at least part of an idea of what we have to look at and deal with and work towards."

Insurance Bureau of Canada vice-president Amanda Dean says the maps will be helpful to home buyers and insurance representatives trying to measure the flood risk of a home.

That information can affect whether buyers can get flood insurance and how much it costs, or even whether they choose to build or buy in a given location at all.

"It gets the same information in front of government, in front of insurers and in front of home owners, so everyone has the same picture in terms of what flood risk looks like in new Brunswick. More importantly, home owners understand the risk," Dean said.

"I think it makes it more real for homeowners and everyone within the New Brunswick to fully understand the flood risk that exists."

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