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Storm chaser to address how Edmonton fits into global picture of climate change

George Kourounis is coming to the University of Alberta to speak on the city's carbon footprint and its global effect on climate change

George Kourounis, a storm chaser, documenting a wildfire.

Submitted/ Charles Edwards / Metro Web Upload

George Kourounis, a storm chaser, documenting a wildfire.

From raindrops that felt like needles hitting him in the face during Hurricane Katrina, to narrowly escaping volcanic lava in Cape Verde, explorer and storm chaser George Kourounis has seen it all.

On Wednesday, Kourounis is coming to the University of Alberta to share those stories and speak on the consequences of climate change using some of the images he has taken in some of the most extreme places on earth — as well as here at home.

The significant carbon footprint of major cities like Edmonton can be felt in obscure places, like the island nation of Tuvalu, according to Kourounis.

“The things that we do in Edmonton, in New York, in Paris, in these big cities where we have a much bigger carbon footprint, our effects are being felt by people we will never see, people we will never meet,” he said.

“These people are the ones that are contributing the least to climate change but they are the ones that are affected the most.”

He said a city like Edmonton will be affected by climate change as well, saying events that usually happen once every 100 years, may now happen once every 10 years.

Kourounis pointed to the Fort McMurray forest fires and said they were an example of how climate change affects areas surrounding cities like Edmonton.

“We still don’t know all of the effects of climate change on tornadoes, how tornadoes are formed. And Edmonton certainly has a history of catastrophic, well one catastrophic tornado,” he said in reference to the 1987 Edmonton tornado.

“Is that the type of storm that’s going to become more common? Is it going to be affecting these urban centres? It remains to be seen,” he said.

George Kourounis, storm chaser inside a volcano in Vanuatu.

George Kourounis

George Kourounis, storm chaser inside a volcano in Vanuatu.

Originally from Hull, Que., Kourounis was always into science and nature growing up.

He grew up to be a sound engineer but he knew that wasn’t what he wanted to do.

“There was always a little piece in the back of my mind that sort of wanted to continue my love of science and nature so I started getting into photography and nature and eventually weather,” he said. “I did my first trip to Oklahoma in 1998 and saw my first tornado and I was hooked ever since.”

George Kourounis posing in front of a tornado.

Charles Edwards

George Kourounis posing in front of a tornado.

He has since left his job, travelled to 65 countries in all seven continents and developed the reputation of “the guy who was on the scene when all hell was breaking loose”.

He said while documenting such extreme conditions and disasters, it was hard to ignore the larger context of climate change.

“The more I did it, the more important the climate message became,” he said.

He said that message has become a very important part of his travels and everytime he makes an appearance or does a presentation, it is never without mentioning climate change as he believes it is now affecting our world at a much faster pace.

“Unfortunately, I anticipate being very busy in the next 10 to 15 years."

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