Climate Change in Newfoundland
By: Steve Ryan
In Newfoundland (Zone 5b), almost everything revolves around the weather. If you ever visit, you’ll know exactly what I'm talking about. Every friendly face you encounter as you “twack” (a word meaning “see the sights and poke around our many wonderful shops and boutiques”) will eventually ask you how you're finding the weather here; if it differs greatly from the conditions you’re used to wherever you're from, and so on. Heaven forbid if it's raining out and you show your dismay; you’ll be told “don't like the weather, just wait 10 minutes and it will change” a common expression in reference to our island’s tendency to see everything–from hail-storms to heat waves–all in a 24-hour period.
Despite our historically poor weather, the elephant in the room as far as our weather is concerned is that the times are indeed a-changin’. In 2016, I started the Convenience Crew as a lawn care service. My goal was simple: if I could round up enough people to let myself and my then-business partner (/cousin) mow their lawn, then I wouldn't have to spend my summer pushing carts at my local grocery store (pushing carts and breaking hearts was my motto through high school… a slogan I thankfully outgrew). Fast forward 5+ years and my little lawn care company has blossomed into a full-blown landscaping service with 8 employees during peak months. We service over a hundred lawns on a regular basis, and our landscaping crews are out fighting weeds and planting shrubs 5 (often 7) days a week from April through November. Our office is the Great Outdoors, and we’re proud of it.
Photo: Convenience Crew Gardening Team 2022
People often say to me, “you must have a tough time with scheduling around Newfoundland weather” alluding to the fact that rainy days and playing in the garden don’t often go hand in hand, but the truth is that in spite of our RDF (rain drizzle and fog) fame — very rarely have I had to call off our crews for the day due to weather. In fact, last summer was the first time I had to manage the workloads to accommodate for days that it was actually–wait for it– TOO HOT to be working deep into the afternoon.
It’s increasingly clear that our climate is changing. A province that was once known for legendary winters and harsh snow storms, we barely had enough snow on the east coast of Newfoundland in 2022 to make a snowball, much less run a snowmobile or go skiing. Our winters have become much milder and in turn our spring comes a little early. We see crocus showing their heads early; actually, all of the fall-planted bulbs are up a little earlier and the landscaping season kicks off more than two weeks ahead of schedule these past couple of years. Great! …right?
The season being extended means a lot more working days, less wasted time due to weather, and happier customers who don’t have to painstakingly wait for us to catch up on rescheduling due to weather every other day.
Let’s not forget that the season is being extended due to the planet warming. Temperatures are rising across the globe — and Newfoundland is certainly not exempt. I remember one day in particular, we were doing a new landscape install for a client living in an area known by the locals as “The Gut” down in Quidi Vidi, a lakeside borough of St. John’s, known for its scenic views of the ocean and idyllic, colourful houses and entertainment options. Typically working close to the Atlantic Ocean means cooler air right? Not this summer.
Photo: Quidi Vidi, Newfoundland 2022
For the week-long stretch we spent digging holes for plants, shrubs, and trees in the unyielding rock ground, the temperatures hovered around 28-29 degrees celsius with a humidex reading much MUCH higher. We kept lukewarm water and gatorades flowing all day long to replenish all the electrolytes we were sweating out. The week ended–finally– with a dart across the road to Quidi Vidi Brewery for a pint as a well-deserved pat on the back for a crew who had gone above and beyond without complaint despite the scorching heat.
Skip ahead a few months to October; our crews typically move into the fall services: wrapping and tying vulnerable plants in preparation for the winter, raking leaves, and planting bulbs for early spring pops of colour — however, fall 2022 was so warm that we held off planting bulbs as long as we could, in fear that they might get confused by the temperatures and start blooming too early. The effects of climate change are in some cases subtle but certainly come with a feeling of unease about the future. Extended seasons and warmer temperatures are great for business, but are longer seasons and padding bottom lines worth the long term environmental impacts of climate change?
What will the future look like if our planet keeps warming?
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about the answers to these questions… and I hope by doing our part to work in ecologically friendly ways and encouraging others to do the same can stunt the effects of climate change and help heal the damage we’ve already caused — even if it means we have to work in a little bit more rain.