By Suzanne Perdeaux and Mujtaba Ali of OCCIAR 8 | WINTER 2018 | GBF.ORG IMPORTANT INFO WINTER TOURISM & RECREATION IN ONTARIO: IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE Tucked into Lake Huron, the natural features of Georgian Bay provide residents and visitors a haven for all-season outdoor adventures. From the scenic hills of Blue Mountain to the rugged shores and crystal clear waters of Georgian Bay, outdoor recreation is often considered a “way of life” for residents and tourists, from skiing and snowboarding to swimming, hiking and fishingⁱ. However, gradual and sudden changes in the regional climate due to climate change are having serious and important effects on the outdoor recreation and tourism industry in Georgian Bay. This article focuses on winter impacts and opportunities. ONTARIO IN A CHANGING CLIMATE Changes in Ontario’s climate have been observed over the past several decades. Between 1948 and 2012, the average annual temperature in Ontario increased by 1.5°C — a rate of warming that is faster than the global averageⁱⁱ. Weather stations across Ontario have shown a trend towards increases in rainfall in all seasons, and increases in the number and/or intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, extreme rainfall events and ice storms have been ob- served province-wideiⁱⁱ. In Ontario, there is a trend towards increased snowfall in the fall in northern regions, a decline in the winter and spring in central and southern regions and an increase in the west and decrease in the east. ⁱᵛ Similar changes have been observed across the Great Lakes Basin: warmer temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, decreased ice coverage and variations to historic fluctua- tions of water levels. This warming trend is expected to continue throughout the 21st cen- tury. Projected air temperature changes show that some parts of Ontario will warm by as much as 7°C in the winter and 4°C in the sum- mer by 2050. In response to this overwhelming warming trend, the annual total precipitation over Ontario is also very likely to change — with an increase by as much as 30% in the win- ter, a decrease of 10% in the southern portion of the province in the summer, and an increase of 10% in northern parts of the province.ᵛ Changes in temperature and precipitation av- erages will also be accompanied by changes in extremes, leading to greater climate variabil- ity and unpredictable weather patterns. This is because a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture. Storms supplied by climate change with increasing moisture are widely observed to produce heavier rain and snow and cause oscillations between flooding and drought. As a result, a changing climate will alter existing weather regimes in wide-reaching ways and lead to more “wild”or “weird” weather. Observed and projected climate-induced changes in natural seasonality could have substantial implications for the sustainability of tourism and recreation opportunities for visitors and the communities that depend on them. NOTES FROM GEORGIAN BAY FOREVER • But we’ve had really cold weather! In late December and January we experienced a cold snap, which unfortunately does not mean global warming is at an end. It is necessary to understand the difference between weather and climate to evaluate risks to Georgian Bay. NOAA describes it this way: "Weather is what you might see outside on any given day, while climate is the average of that weather over a longer time period. Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get. ˣᵛⁱⁱⁱ Climate is not represented in one year but is measured over decades and is of primary concern for GBF. • Climate adaptation measures. GBF con- tinues to work on ways to increase climate resilience through studies of infrastructure solutions and economic impacts, as well as initiatives that measure the impacts of climate change on ecosystems so protection measures can be put in place. i Great Lakes Information Networks, 2008. Great Lakes Information Network. Accessible from: www.great-lakes.net/ ; ii Vincent, L.A., X.L. Wang, E.J. Milewska, H. Wan, F. Yang and V. Swail. 2012. A second generation of homogenized Canadian monthly surface air temperature for climate trend analysis. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, pp 117.; iii Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. 2014. Ontario’s Adaptation Strategy & Action Plan: 2011–2014. Available from: www.ontario.ca/document/climate-ready-adaptation-strategy-and-action-plan-2011-2014-0 ; iv Lemmen, D.S., Warren, F.J., Lacroix, J., & Bush, E. (Eds.). 2008. From impacts to adaptation: Canada in a changing climate 2007. Ottawa, Ontario: Government of Canada.; v Canadian climate data and scenarios. Adapted from Canadian Climate Data and Scenarios. 2017. Avail- able from: www.cccsn.ec.gc.ca ; vi Canadian Ski Council (CSC). 2015. Facts+Stats: Ski and snowboard industry 2014-15 . Available from: www.skicanada.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/2014-15-Facts-and-Stats.pdf; vii Avery, R. (2001, December 21). Green ski hills finally turn white. Toronto Star , p. A4.; viii Howell, K. (2002, March 21). Ski season wasn’t all downhill-snowmaking saves alpine slopes, but weather hurts trails. Toronto Star , p. A28.; x Scott, D. R. Steiger, M. Rutty, M. Pons, and P. Johnson. 2017. The differential futures of ski tourism in Ontario (Canada) under climate change: the limits of snowmaking adaptation. Current Issues in Tourism.