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Biography

Suren Kulshreshtha is currently a Professor in the Department of Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon over the past 45 years. His main interest has been in various issues related to climate change, including adaptation, drought impacts, and greenhouse gas mitigation. He has been a Visiting Scientist at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, at Laxenburg, Austria, in addition to Visiting Professor at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, and at the McGill University (Macdonald Campus) in St. Anne de Bellevue. He has also participated in several oversees projects in Indonesia, Zambia and India through the Canadian International Development Agency, and has been an invited participant at several FAO and United Nations Environmental Program activities.

Abstract

The occurrence of dry and wet events cause major adverse impacts in the Canadian Prairies. In the past, dry events, which are typically agricultural and/or hydrological droughts, have been common in the region. At least five major drought episodes have occurredin the Canadian Prairies during the past 120 years. These include multi-year droughts inthe 1890s, 1910s, 1930s, late 1950s to early 1960s, 1980s, 1999-2005, 2009-10 (Bonsal et al. 2011a, 2011b, Wittrock et al. 2010).The years 2001-2004 resulted in one of the largest areamulti-year drought. Almost half of the agricultural prairies was in severe drought or worse during2001. For the older droughts of the 1900 to 1950 period, the 1930s were the largest multi-yeardroughts, and 1961 and 1919 were the single-year severe droughts that covered the largest area. According to Bonsal et al. (2011), some of the major droughts have migrated into the Canadian Prairies from the United StatesGreat Plains, including the 1999-2005 drought. This means that it is important tomonitor the northern US droughts for expansion or migration into Canada.In the future, the frequency of both droughts and intense precipitation are expected to increase. In fact, the review by Wheaton et al. (2013) found that (i) multi-year droughts (e.g., 5 to 10 years, or so) would occur more than twice as often forthe period to 2100; (ii) they would come with more evaporation power and be more intense as they will have much higher temperatures and much longer warm seasons; and (iii) they would cover much more area than even the across-Canada drought of 2001-2002.Droughts of such magnitudes would have devastating impacts on the Prairies, economically, environmentally, and socially, particularly on those industries where weather is a major determining factor to their survival and performance. One such industry is agriculture. It is the contention of this paper that estimation of impacts of the past droughts have been limited in scope, and may have underestimated these impacts.

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