The Western Cordillera

Vivian Lo

Physical Region

Climate:
The Western Cordillera has a maritime climate due to its location (with much of Canada's Pacific coastline falling in this region). However, as Kelowna is further inland than a city such as Vancouver, it has a continental climate. Although it has a low temperature range of only 22.1 degrees Celsius, it only has an average of 386.9 mm of precipitation per year. Precipitation is rather sparse and consistent year round, with only a slight concentration of precipitation in the summer months.

Kelowna falls in the southern part of the Western Cordillera, meaning it's quite a bit warmer than Whitehorse, Yukon (although they are both part of the same landform region!). Relief precipitation also plays a large role in Kelowna's climate, seeing as it has the temperature range of a maritime climate yet the precipitation of a continental climate. As warm, moist air is blown inland, the Coastal mountains act as a barrier, causes most of the moisture in this air to condense and fall as precipitation of the windward side of the mountain. However, as Kelowna falls on the leeward side of the mountain, it resides in the rain shadow with much less precipitation than that of a coastal city (e.g., Victoria, Vancouver). Also, Kelowna is located directly on the coast of the Okanagan Lake. Being this close to such a large body of water provides this area with a moderating effect. As the lake absorbs heat, it keeps the surrounding area warmer in the winter (and in summer, vice versa).

Landscape:
The Western Cordillera as a whole is characterized by its mountainous regions, formed by the converging North American and Pacific plate boundaries. It extends from southern British Columbia all the way up to Yukon.

However, Kelowna lies in the Interior Plateau (more specifically, the Okanagan valley); a region of British Columbia that rests between the Coastal Mountains to the east and the Columbia Mountains to the west. The Interior Plateau consists of rolling valleys and networks of lakes and rivers, with plateaus and small mountains escalating high above the nearby towns.

Rock Types:
Within the Western Cordillera, the rock types vary depending on which of the three regions you're in. Igneous and metamorphic rocks are found in the Coastal Mountain Range and Island Mountain Range, and the Eastern Mountains (Columbia and Rocky) are made of sedimentary and metamorphic rock.

The Interior Plateaus are made of igneous and metamorphic rock, as well as valuable metals. These rocks were formed by volcanic activity.

Vegetation:
Kelowna is home to some of Canada's most famous vineyards and orchards. The soil is rich and fertile, although some regions may seem desert-like due to the rain shadow. The Okanagan Valley is one of the most important agricultural regions in British Columbia, producing over 80% of Canada's apricots and sweet cherries between 2011 and 2013. This area specializes in the cultivation of fruit trees and grapes. Aside from the agriculture, the Okanagan Valley is made of dry grasslands, western yellow pine, and douglas fir forests. The highland plateaus are also covered in sub-alpine forest.

Human Activities

No matter how old you are, water slides and water parks will always be a source of summer fun for everyone! Therefore I propose building a water park in Kelowna, British Columbia, for residents and tourists alike.

Due to the sunny, hot weather of this region, as well as its existing popularity among tourists, I believe a water park would thrive in the Okanagan Valley. With proper irrigation, the Okanagan Lake would provide more than enough fresh water for such a facility.

Climate Change

Climate change has brought and will bring warmer temperatures to the area. In fact, some parts of British Columbia are warming more than twice as fast as the global average. With this, British Columbia has lost over 50% of its snow pack within the last 50-100 years alone. Subsequently, precipitation in the area has increased by 20%, while the general climate patterns have grown more erratic.

This increase in precipitation and meltwater can lead to floods in the near future, and seeing as Kelowna is positioned right on the banks of the Okanagan River, the effects may be catastrophic.

My tourist attraction would be affected by the future weather patterns and glacial melting in British Columbia. If glacial runoff increases, there's a chance for flooding in the area. If it were to decrease, that'd affect all the rivers fed by glaciers, as well as fish populations, hydroelectricity and the irrigation systems that water Kelowna's famous vineyards and orchards -- the very thing that tourists flock to see. With the lack of tourists, there would be fewer people seeking attractions like my water park. While there are still locals who may want to visit, maintaining a water park during times where water is scarce is simply not viable.

Natural Disasters

As Kelowna is far from the earthquake ridden coastline, there is a smaller risk of earthquakes, while tsunamis are non-existent.

However, due to the dry and sunny climate of the area, it's no surprise that forest fires are a common occurrence in the area. The dry grasslands and arid conditions of Okanagan Valley combined with a single lightning strike can lead to massive fires capable of burning many kilometres of forests if left unattended.

In a forest fire, it mainly begins with a storm. If lightning strikes, the vegetation that make up the Okanagan Valley can easily be set alight. This fire will either be put out by the rain or may grow as it's spread by the winds. Forest fires can also be caused by out-of-control campfires, discarded cigarettes, or just human carelessness.

And that's that.

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