Toronto Under Ice

June 22nd, 2017

An actuary is someone who uses statistics to determine the probability of risks and the financial consequences of those risks. The viability of our insurance and pension systems depends on the advice of actuaries. Actuaries have a deserved reputation as a sober, fact-based profession.

In 2016, four Canadian and American actuarial societies published the “Actuaries Climate Index” which can be found at actuariesclimateindex.org.

The index tracks changes in the frequency and duration of extreme, high and low temperatures, heavy precipitation, drought and strong winds as well as sea level.

The data used to calculate the index is gathered from, among other sources, the NOAA satellite information service and the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level which is based in Liverpool in the UK at the National Oceanography Centre.

Data is grouped into 12 regions across North America. Canada, for example, is split into the north west Pacific, central Artic, northern plains, north east forest (which includes Ontario) and north east Atlantic. Data for each of the components of the index is available for each region, for each season (winter, spring, summer and fall) for every year since 1961.

In general, analysis shows two things. The first is that there are significant increases and decreases in the regional components of the index. Second, the overall, dominant trend is that extreme weather is becoming more frequent.

In June, the quarterly index for the fall of 2016 was released. The value of the index was 2.07, the highest seasonal level on record for the United States and Canada combined. The average for the preceding five years was 1.07.

I am hoping that some actuaries in the United States will get the news to the White House that climate change is not a hoax.

If anyone was to express skepticism to me about climate change, I would take them to the dinosaur exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. At the entrance to this exhibit, there is a sign that says “20,000 years ago, Toronto was under a kilometre of ice”.