As we were closing this issue, I came across a video on Twitter of a highway just outside Vancouver, submerged in water. It wasn’t the only one. The densely populated urban heart of British Columbia was cut off from the rest of Canada by flooding and mudslides after an atmospheric river barreled through. The country’s busiest port lost access to rail service, stranding containers. Hundreds of motorists had to be rescued from slide-isolated highways on military helicopters. The only way to get to the rest of the country by road was to detour through the United States.
The deluge followed a hot, dry summer that saw the numerous cities throughout the region blast through long-standing temperature records as a heat dome blanketed much of the Pacific Northwest. By the end of August, drought had settled in across the province. Vancouver Island, home to old-growth temperate rainforests, hit level 5 drought conditions, British Columbia’s most severe categorization. Hundreds of wildfires left the region covered in ash and the city itself choking in smoke. The charred landscape left by the summer’s drought made the fall’s floods that much worse. Watching that video of a highway covered in brown, muddy water, it occurred to me that I was viewing a sad microcosm of the premise of this issue: The way very many of us will initially experience climate change will be through water—either too much of it or not enough. We will flood. Or burn. Or both. This issue brings you stories of the way changes to the water cycle are playing out all over the world as we begin to experience climate change.