La Nina years now are warmer even than years with strong El Nino events of the past.

WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas
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Transport Canada to put new eyes in Arctic skies with $36M drone

Aircraft will be used to detect oil spills, survey sea ice, monitor shipping and assist with search and rescue

In December, the Government of Canada awarded a $36-million contract to Elbit Systems Ltd. for its Hermes StarLiner remotely piloted aircraft system. (Photo courtesy of Elbit Systems)

The waters of Nunavut will have an extra set of eyes on them in 2023 after the Government of Canada purchased a new surveillance drone last month.

The drone, which will be part of Transport Canada’s National Aerial Surveillance Program, will have the ability to detect oil spills, survey ice and marine habitats, monitor shipping and help with search and rescue, humanitarian efforts and illegal fishing enforcement, the federal government said in a December news release.

The $36.1-million contract also includes communication links, ground control stations, sensor packages, training and the optional purchase of spare parts.

Right now, a Dash-7 aircraft based in Ottawa moves to Iqaluit in order to do surveillance during the shipping season, according to the Transport Canada website. The drone will be used in conjunction with the Dash-7.

The aerial surveillance program is a joint venture between Transport Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada, tasked with patrolling the country’s coastlines for ship-source pollution like oil spills.

Although a typical patrol season begins in July and ends in late October or early November, last summer COVID-19 restrictions prevented these flights in Nunavut.

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The climate crisis led to record insurance payouts in 2020

COVID continues to cause severe economic distress, but natural disasters fueled by a warming planet also took their toll this year, causing record damage and displacing millions according to two new assessments of insurance claims in 2020.

Christian Aid, the relief arm of 41 churches in the U.K. and Ireland, ranked the 15 most destructive climate disasters of the year based on insurance losses. Cyclone Amphan, which hit the Bay of Bengal in May, was the most expensive single event, displacing 4.9 million people and costing $13 billion. Each of the top 10 caused at least $1.5 billion in damages, and five cost $5 billion or more. 

Because the price tag to insurers was higher in rich countries, Christian Aid noted, its report likely undercounts devastation to poorer countries. “South Sudan, for example, experienced one of its worst floods on record, which killed 138 people and destroyed the year’s crops,” the report said.

With its relatively high property values, the U.S. topped the list of countries financially impacted by climate change, incurring $60 billion in damages. Much of that was caused by an unusually heavy Atlantic hurricane season. Altogether, the 30 named storms caused at least $41 billion in damages and displaced an estimated 200,000 people across the U.S., as well as Central America and the Caribbean.

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