Weather Permitting by Chris St. Clair

For more than twenty-five years, Chris St. Clair presented the weather with the Weather Network. This involved on-site research and reporting – from standing in waist-deep flood water wondering about alligators, to attempting to reach Montreal during the great ice storm, to witnessing the devastation in Fort McMurray. He did not simply deliver the weather; he brought viewers into the story as he explained the underlying science in practical terms.

This past July, he retired from the Weather Network. An overview of his career, complete with video clips showing highlights of his work, tributes from colleagues, footage of Fort McMurray, and a lighter moment with Rick Mercer, can be found on the Weather Network.

“In Weather Permitting, Chris St. Clair demonstrates his energy, enthusiasm, and knowledge as he takes the reader behind the scenes in twelve major climate events that he covered during the past twenty-five years.”

In Weather Permitting, Chris St. Clair demonstrates his energy, enthusiasm, and knowledge as he takes the reader behind the scenes in twelve major climate events that he covered during the past twenty-five years. We travel with him on his journey: through the planning, the unwieldy gear, the early mornings and late nights, the long gas lineups, and the actions and reactions of the people he meets. These inclusions are not perhaps necessary in explaining weather events indicative of climate change, but they are reminders that these are real events, which impact people like us.

The book opens with an act of kindness observed in Fort McMurray, followed by a quotation from the Assembly of First Nations on the Indigenous perspective on responsibilities to the earth. The context is established for a study that is grounded in our relationship to the earth and to each other.

The introduction gives a brief snapshot of the author’s upbringing in Nova Scotia and his early career, and he tells how he decided to present the weather as “a story we all share individually and collectively. The land, the sea, and the climate make us who we are. We cannot change the weather. We simply thrive in or endure it.” (xviii)

The twelve major events include: the Red River floods of 1997, the ice storms of Quebec and Ontario of 1998, Juan and White Juan in Nova Scotia in 2003 and 2004, the St. John River floods in New Brunswick in 2008, Hurricane Leslie in Newfoundland in 2012, flooding in Toronto in 2013, the blizzard that hit Prince Edward Island in 2014, the Fort McMurray fire of 2016, Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Hurricane Irma in 2017, the destructive hailstorm in Alberta in 2020, and the Lytton fire and subsequent flooding in 2021. In each of these, the science itself is clearly explained, but it is grounded in the human context, in the geography, the history, and the social impact. And although Chris St. Clair witnessed the event in one location, he describes the effects of this and other related events elsewhere. (Note: due to Covid travel restrictions, he was not physically present in the last events, but in close contact with those on site.)

We are reminded often that the weather does not occur in isolation; lives are impacted, lives are lost. Moments of despair are captured, but also moments of intense generosity. We are moved to hope as a complete stranger peels three twenty-dollar bills from his wallet and hands them to an evacuee who did not have time to find his wallet when he left Fort McMurray. We witness the resilience of Newfoundlanders who, no matter how bad this storm is, will declare, “You should have been here for the last one we had.” Our eyes widen as the author is introduced to a grinning Liza while air boating in the Everglades. (Yes, Liza is an alligator.) .

He takes us back into geologic time, but he turns our consideration to the future:

Every year the price tag for damage directly related to our changing climate rises, and every year unmanaged or ignored threats need the convergence of only a few unfortunate circumstances to create a disaster.(p. 215)

Throughout this study, he notes the increase in frequency and intensity of such weather events and explains the reasons for this. He examines how climate change is resulting in more severe weather patterns and reflects on how we are processing all the data that is instantly at our fingertips. He recognizes that we have no power to change the weather but reflects on how we can achieve a sustainable future. As we read the stories, our minds turn to the future.

This is very informative reading, and it is also balanced and enjoyable reading. We sweep back in geologic time to learn why there is flooding today, we learn about the air currents and heating patterns and moisture that create a storm system, and we learn what it is like to track a weather event and to live a weather event. It is augmented by a well-chosen photo display capturing moments in notable events. I would definitely have this book in my resources if I were teaching environmental science again; Chris St. Clair’s science makes sense, his stories reach us in many ways, and the direction he indicates for the future is clear.

About the Author

Chris St. Clair was a weather presenter and journalist on The Weather Network for more than twenty-five years. He is the author of the bestselling book, Canada’s Weather: The Climate That Shapes a Nation. He is also a popular speaker on meteorology and climate change. He lives in Kingston, Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @CStClair1.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Simon & Schuster (Nov. 8 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 256 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1668002884
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1668002889

Anne M. Smith-Nochasak grew up in rural Nova Scotia and taught for many years in northern settings including Northern Labrador,  the focal setting for her second novel. She has retired to Nova Scotia, where she enjoys reading, writing, and country living. She has self-published two novels through FriesenPress: A Canoer of Shorelines (2021) and The Ice Widow: A Story of Love and Redemption   (2022).