Heat and Drought

Climate change is affecting the frequency, duration and intensity of extreme heat and droughts. Extreme hot temperatures will become more frequent and more intense as a result of climate change. This will increase the severity of heatwaves and contribute to increased drought and wildfire risks.

Extreme heat can cause severe health risks, including illnesses such as heat stroke and even death. Built up areas, such as the downtowns in our cities are especially prone to creating heat islands where extreme temperatures can be especially hazardous.

Droughts are projected to increase in frequency, intensity and area with a changing climate and increasingly severe impacts. Society, the economy and environment depend on a sufficient supply of water, which can be seriously threatened by drought. Droughts can cause significant damage, especially to sensitive sectors such as agriculture. New practices can help prepare for a new climate reality; for example, agricultural operations can be made more resilient to heat and drought, and schedules can be changed for outside workers who are experiencing more frequent heat waves. There are crops that are more resistant and resilient to drought, and different adaptation measures that can help prevent worst case scenarios.

Drought is a very difficult hazard to deal with. Dry conditions can persist over a long period, even years, and intensify over large areas. This makes adaptation difficult and costly or perhaps even impossible. Although many strategies can be used to adapt to a drought, it can be challenging during intense, long periods and adaptation requires high degrees of innovation and cost. Agricultural adaptation can include better monitoring (e.g., using the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index), preparations, warnings, forecasting, advanced climate-smart agriculture, and best management practices.

Text reads "How should we respond to increasing extreme heat and reduce future impacts? Extreme heat jeopardizes the well-being of people and ecosystems globally. Individuals, communities, and governments are adapting to extreme heat, but the extent and types of these adaptations vary widely." In the background is a tree with the sun shining through behind it.

Periods of extreme heat are projected to increase year over year. Atlantic Canada is not immune to this, and has been experiencing a heat wave over the past several days with record breaking maximum temperatures registered in many locations on Sunday, July 24th, 2022.

Maximum temperatures broke previous records at the following airport locations:

  • Moncton (33.4, previously 31.7 set in 1921 and equaled in 1971),
  • Charlottetown (30.9, previously 30.7 set in 2001),
  • Halifax (30.8, previously 29.4 set in 1975),
  • Sydney (32.7, previously 31.1 set in 1961), and
  • St. John’s (30.3, previously 28.9 set in 1952).

In the context of climate change, these present record temperatures would become the new daily average normal July temperatures near the end of the century.


Further Reading:

A recent study combined data from the Global Adaptation Mapping Initiative with a heat-specific systematic review to analyze the global extent and diversity of documented heat adaptation actions (301 peer-reviewed articles) pulling data from 98 countries:

Health Canada (2020). Reducing urban heat islands to protect health in Canada. An introduction for public health professionals.

Climate Atlas – Urban Heat Island Effect –

Here’s who lives in your city’s worst heat islands: