Acid rain is a generic term used for precipitation that contains an abnormally high concentration of sulfuric and nitric acid. These acids form in the atmosphere when industrial gas emissions combine with water, and have negative impacts on the environment and human health.
Action and Learning
Action relates to an action or activity, in this case one carried out to provide a particular environmental service to a community. Learning is the increased capacity of citizens to become more ecologically literate and competent.
Advisories Warnings Watches (Weather)
Environment Canada issues weather advisories, warnings and watches to inform people about current or developing weather. An "advisory" is a bulletin that informs people that actual or expected weather conditions may cause general inconvenience or concern, but do not pose a serious threat. A "watch" alerts people that conditions are favorable for the development of severe weather, while a "warning" tells them that severe or hazardous weather is occurring or highly probable.
The air or atmosphere that surrounds the earth is one of the main components of our environment.
Scientists collect and analyze samples of air in different regions of Canada on a regular basis to determine pollutant levels. This information is not only used by decision-makers to pinpoint the sources of air pollution and determine strategies for reducing it, but also to produce daily air-quality forecasts that warn Canadians when smog levels are high.
Atmospheric science (Science and Technology)
Atmospheric science is the study of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and related environments.
The variety of organisms found within a specified geographic region.
The term used to describe a collection of technologies that use living organisms to create improved products and processes. The primary use of biotechnology from a health perspective is in the development of new medicines, or biopharmaceuticals.
The term used to describe a collection of technologies that use living organisms to create improved products and processes. These technologies are being used to develop new medicines, to improve yields from fish stocks, forest growth and agricultural crops, to promote energy production from biological sources, to improve treatment of liquid effluents, and to assist in cleanup of wastes and the environment.
Warm-blooded, feathered, egg-laying vertebrates that have a beak and wings, and are usually able to fly.
Bird-watching is a popular hobby for many Canadians. Many birders assist Environment Canada and other organizations in monitoring bird populations through annual counts.
Bulk Water Removal (Water)
The removal and transfer of water out of its basin of origin by human-made diversions (e.g., canals), tanker ships or trucks, and pipelines. Such removals have the potential, directly or cumulatively, to harm the health of a drainage basin.
Chemical industries are those involved in the importation, manufacture or sale of substances that are produced by or used in a reaction involving changes in atoms or molecules
The basic chemistry of water is hydrogen and oxygen, however unpurified water may also contain natural and human-made chemical pollutants.
Cleaning up a chemical spill in water involves trying to physically contain the spill and prevent it from coming into contact with sensitive ecosystems, as well as removing the pollutant itself through the use of such technologies as oil skimmers or the introduction of a degrading substance.
Climate Change (UF Global Warming)
Human activities are altering the chemical composition of the atmosphere through the build-up of greenhouse gases that trap heat and reflect it back to the earth's surface. This is resulting in changes to our climate, including a rise in global temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events.
Community (Action and Learning)
All of the people living in a specific locality or members of a group that share a particular interest.
Compliance means conformity with the law. Environment Canada ensures compliance with legislation through two types of activity: promotion and enforcement.
Using decomposing vegetable matter, including table scraps, grass clippings, leaves, peat and soil to fertilize the soil. Composting reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill, and helps put valuable nutrients back into residential and commercial gardens.
Environmental conservation is a general term that refers to the preservation of the natural environment-including wildlife, habitat, and the ecosystems they are a part of.
Water is considered contaminated if it contains chemical or biological pollutants that are harmful to human health or the environment.
Many Canadians spend their summers at cottages located on the shores of lakes and rivers. Good cottagers make an effort to reduce their impact on the surrounding environment, particularly the sensitive aquatic ecosystem, by using non-polluting boats and innovative composting toilets.
Birds, like any animals, are subject to illness, and the migratory nature of many species makes it hard to control the spread of contagious diseases, such as avian cholera. Avian botulism, which is contracted by eating poisoned maggots, occurs naturally and is a leading cause of bird death, especially in migratory waterfowl.
Ocean ecology deals with the relations of ocean-dwelling organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.
The study of how human beings allocate limited resources to produce various commodities and how those goods are distributed for consumption among members of society.
A biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.
Education (Action and Learning)
The process of providing intellectual, moral and social instruction to an individual or group of people, particularly in a formal, prolonged manner. Environment Canada participates in many programs and projects aimed at incorporating environmental education into school curricula.
El Nino is a warm surface current that usually appears in the Pacific Ocean off Ecuador and Peru around Christmas, and lasts about three months. Every three to seven years it remains for as long as a year-and-a-half as part of a southern oscillation. In North America, this contributes to warmer temperatures along the Pacific coast and weaker hurricanes on the Atlantic.
Emergency Response (Action and Learning)
An emergency response is an action carried out in a particular community or region to protect human health and the environment from the impacts of an environmental emergency, such as a forest fire or a chemical spill.
Endangered species (UF Species at Risk)
Endangered species are those listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as "facing imminent extinction or extirpation."
Anything that can be efficiently converted into heat or motion to provide power to run machines and vehicles and to supply heat and light is a source of energy.
The energy industry includes businesses that produce power through such means as hydroelectricity and nuclear energy, as well as those that extract and refine energy-producing fossil fuels. Others are involved in the development of alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power, and fuel cells.
Energy consumption refers to the amount of energy used by an object, system or process to carry out a particular function.
Enforcement embodies those activities that compel adherence to legal requirements. These activities include inspection and monitoring; investigation of violations; issuance of notices to individuals or businesses to require them to correct improper practices; issuance of tickets for violations; seizure of wildlife, or their parts and products, and any item that may have been used to commit the offence; and prosecution.
Carrying out an environmental assessment means determining or estimating the value, significance or extent of damage to a particular ecosystem or aspect of it.
An uncontrolled, unplanned or accidental release of a substance into the environment that may affect human life or health or the environment of which human health depends. These emergencies include those resulting from human activities as well as ones created as a side effect of a natural hazard (forest fires, spills, leaks)
Monitoring, or making systematic geo-referenced observations of the environment-such as measuring water level or counting trees-is essential to detecting changes in ecosystems over time.
Excess Nutrients (Water)
Excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus compounds come mainly from municipal sewage and farm runoff containing fertilizers and animal waste. When these nutrients are introduced to lakes, rivers, and marine environments, they can cause excess growth of aquatic plants, which then die and decay, depleting water of dissolved oxygen and killing fish (a process called eutrophication).
A cold-blooded, limbless, vertebrate that lives wholly in water and has fins, internal gills, and skin with a glandular secretion that decreases friction.
Fish Stocks (Ocean)
The supply or quantity of fish acquired or allowed to accumulate for future use.
The catching of fish, either as a job or a hobby.
An overflowing of water beyond its normal confines, and especially over land. Flooding may occur as a result of heavy rainfall and, in spring, as the result of a sudden melting of ice and snow.
Predictions of the weather for the next few hours or days made by using computer models to analyze atmospheric data. Long-range weather forecasts, which are more general and less accurate, are also made for future periods of several months.
The management of forests for wood, water, wildlife, forage, and recreation. Due to wood's economic importance, forestry has been chiefly concerned with timber management, especially reforestation, maintenance of existing forests, and fire control. In Canada, the extensive forest cover just north of the settled fringe supports large exports of newsprint, pulp and paper, and other forest products.
Water that is not salty, found in inland bodies of water.
Funding (Action and Learning)
Money provided for a particular use. Environment Canada provides funding to a wide range of community groups and individuals to carry out projects aimed at protecting, conserving or restoring the environment.
Planting and weeding vegetable and flower gardens is good exercise. Green gardeners use organic methods to control pests, instead of pesticides, and use composted material instead of commercial fertilizers.
A group of five connected freshwater lakes-Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario-located in eastern-central North America along the Canada-United States border. The lakes, which cover 246,000 square kilometres, are the continent's largest source of fresh water.
The greenhouse effect is the phenomenon whereby certain gases that absorb and trap heat in the atmosphere cause a warming effect on earth.
Greenhouse gases are gases that absorb and trap heat in the atmosphere and cause a warming effect on earth. Some occur naturally in the atmosphere, while others result from human activities. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons.
Discarded material which, because of its inherent nature and quantity, requires special disposal techniques to avoid crating health hazards, nuisances or environmental pollution. Hazardous waste can physically be solid, liquid, semi-solid or gaseous.
A person's mental or physical well-being.
The practice of pursuing and killing wild animals. To protect wildlife in Canada, there are laws governing when the hunting of certain species may take place, as well as the number, size, age and sometimes sex of specimens that may be killed by hunters.
The practice of pursuing and killing game birds is permitted at specific times of the year and in different parts of the country. Conservation hunts are an important means of managing the population of species such as the Snow Goose.
Hurricanes are cyclones of tropical origin, with wind speeds of at least 118 kilometres per hour. The winds in a hurricane rotate inwards to an area of low barometric pressure. This relatively calm centre is called the "eye".
La Nina is an extensive cooling of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean that occurs less frequently than El Nino and is its climatic opposite. It occurs when easterly trade winds in the tropics strengthen, intensifying the up-welling of cold waters off the coast of Peru and Ecuador. The effects of La Nina are strongest during the Northern Hemisphere winter, and include abundant snowfall from the interior of British Columbia to the Great Lakes region.
A rule enacted through legislation that prohibits certain actions and is enforced by the imposition of penalties. Canada environmental and wildlife laws aimed at protecting and conserving the environment-some developed because of domestic concerns, and others as a result of international agreements.
The height of the surface of the water in a lake, river, sea etc. Water levels vary greatly depending on the amount of rainfall received over a given period of time, and the speed with which snow and ice melt in the spring.
Loss of habitat (Wildlife)
Habitat is the natural environment characteristically occupied by an organism. Loss of habitat to human development, forestry, agriculture and other activities is the primary cause of biodiversity loss in Canada and around the world.
Of the class Mammalia, the highest class of vertebrates. Mammals are warm-blooded animals that have mammary glands and a four-chambered heart. Most give birth to live young, and are either partially or completely covered in hair.
The industry concerned with the invention or fabrication of items or products. Manufacturing is Canada's chief economic activity, and is heavily concentrated in southern Ontario and Quebec. Major manufactures include motor vehicles, processed food, chemicals, aluminum, and iron and steel.
Regular, periodic movements of animals in large numbers, usually away from and back to a place of origin. Many birds undertake seasonal migrations-typically in the spring and fall-to find more favorable conditions of temperature, food, or water. Such migrations may involve a change of latitude, altitude, or both, and are intended to provide a suitable breeding area.
The excavation and extraction of metals, minerals and oil from the earth. Canada is a leading mineral exporter, and produces zinc, asbestos, silver, and nickel for export, and also mines potash, sulfur, uranium, copper, and iron. Coal, oil, and natural gas are abundant in Alberta and to a lesser extent in Saskatchewan.
A large expanse of sea. The oceans surrounding Canada are the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic.
Ozone is a naturally occurring gas, formed from normal oxygen, that protects the earth by filtering out ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Most of the world's ozone is concentrated in the stratosphere, 10-50 kilometres above the earth's surface.
Documents granting legal permission to perform an activity. Special permits must be obtained to carry out certain activities that have an impact on the environment, in order to ensure that these activities are limited.
Planning (Environmental emergencies)
Determining the potential impacts of environmental emergencies on communities and natural resources is essential to minimizing the impacts of such emergencies when they occur. Of particular importance is the development of a network of appropriate responders with clearly delineated responsilities.
Any substance that is present in or has been introduced into the environment and has harmful or unpleasant effects. Pollution comes in many forms, and may be present in air, land, water, or organisms. Although some pollution is from natural sources, most is produced by human activities.
Any substance introduced into the ocean that has unpleasant or harmful effects. Although ocean pollution often comes from direct sources, such as sewage or industrial liquid waste emitted by sewage treatment plants, industries, septic tanks, or waste dumped by oceangoing vessels, it may also fall out of the atmosphere or seep in from surrounding land.
Any substance introduced into water or a body of water that has unpleasant or harmful effects. Although water pollution often comes from direct sources, such as effluent emitted into lakes and rivers by industries, it may also fall out of the atmosphere or seep in from surrounding land.
Pollution prevention refers to the use of processes, practices, materials, products or energy that avoid or minimize the creation of pollutants and waste, and reduce the overall risk to human health or the environment.
Any form of water, such as rain, snow, sleet, or hail, that falls to the earth's surface.
Preparedness (Environmental emergencies)
Readiness to respond to an environmental emergency is crucial to minimizing the harmful effects it could have on the environment.
Prevention (Environmental emergencies)
A variety of method to help prevent environmental emergencies from occurring, whenever possible. These include education, regulations and other legal instruments governing the handling of hazardous materials.
Protected Areas (Wildlife)
A terrestrial or marine area that is legally designated to protect plants, animals or ecosystems. They range from closed reserves, with a ban on the removal of any resource, to multiple-use areas managed to meet a variety of objectives, including conservation.
Pulp and Paper (Industry)
The pulp and paper industry refers to the use of ground wood or other vegetable fibres to manufacture different types of paper, including cardboards.
The use of radio frequencies to transmit up-to-the-minute weather forecasts and reports continuously over VHF-FM radio, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Moisture condensed from atmospheric vapor that falls to earth in drops.
An activity or pastime pursued for pleasure or interest. Our natural environment is the setting for a variety of outdoor recreational activities.
To assess regulatory compliance at the national level it is necessary to gather, compile, synthesize and interpret a variety of data and information. Environment Canada's enforcement and program staff report on inspection and other data collected in the performance of their regular verification duties-including inspections and investigations.
Research (Science and technology)
A systematic investigation to establish facts. Much of Environment Canada's work involves conducting research on a wide range of environmental topics.
A risk assessment is an estimate of the chance that environmental or health problems will result from a particular activity. Risk assessments play an important role in determining controls for the manufacture, use and transportation of toxic chemicals.
Science is a branch of knowledge conducted on objective principles involving the systematized observation of and experiments with phenomena-particularly those concerned with the material and functions of the physical universe. Science is the foundation of Environment Canada's policies, programs and regulations. Technology is the application of scientific knowledge to practical uses.
A science assessment is an objective appraisal of existing scientific knowledge on an issue or subject, for the purpose of transferring relevant information to policy makers, the general public, science audiences and others.
sedimentation is an increase in the amount of solid particles suspended in water, caused primarily by soil erosion. The main human causes of sedimentation are forestry, farming, and construction. When sediment settles, it can smother the feeding and spawning grounds of fish and kill aquatic organisms.
Includes conditions such as: high wind, heavy rain, hail, heavy snowfall, blizzard, severe thunderstorm and tornado.
Waste matter, usually in the form of human excrement.
Smog (Ground-level ozone)
Smog is formed in the Earth's lower atmosphere, near ground level, when pollutants emitted by cars, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries, chemical plants, and other sources react chemically in the presence of sunlight. Ninety per cent of all smog found in urban areas is made up of ground-level ozone-the same chemical found in the stratosphere. In large enough quantities, ground-level ozone can cause respiratory problems in humans and other animals, and damage to plants and building materials.
Atmospheric vapour frozen into ice crystals that falls to earth in light white flakes. A snowstorm is a heavy fall of snow, especially with a high wind. A severe snowstorm is called a blizzard
A species is a class of living organisms that have similar characteristics and are capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding. Conserving species diversity means ensuring that healthy populations are maintained in their native areas, and that suitable habitat is preserved.
Species at Risk
(see endangered species)
The accidental release of a liquid chemical, such as oil, into a body of water can have far-reaching impacts on the environment because spills may disperse widely or even mix with the water.
Atmospheric disturbances manifested in strong winds accompanied by rain, snow, or other precipitation and often by thunder and lightning.
Long-range policy designed for a particular purpose.
The provision or storage of water, or the amount of water stored, for a house, community or region.
Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In other words, development is essential to satisfy human needs and improve the quality of human life. At the same time, development must be based on the efficient and environmentally responsible use of all of society's scarce resources - natural, human, and economic.
In meteorological terms, temperature refers to the degree of heat or cold of the air as measured by a thermometer.
Rotating columns of air several hundred metres in diameter that whirl destructively at speeds of up to 800 kilometres per hour, and are usually accompanied by a funnel-shaped cloud.
Toxic Substances (Water)
Substances that have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or human health. Toxic substances from industrial and agricultural activities often enter water and have been linked to health problems in animals and humans.
The transportation industry comprises all businesses involved in conveying people or goods from one point to another by way of air, land or water.
The treatment of wastewater or contaminated water using chemical, physical or biological agents to make it safe for drinking and other uses.
Trends identify similarities over time. For example, observations of climatic data, such as precipitation and temperature, are used to determine changes in our climate. Any general directions and tendencies in these data over the long-term are referred to as trends.
Invisible electromagnetic radiation with a frequency between that of visible violet light and X rays. Most of the ultraviolet component of sunlight is absorbed by the ozone layer of the atmosphere, but UV-B radiation can cause sunburn and skin cancer and UV-A radiation can cause photosensitivity reactions and possibly skin cancer.
Environment Canada issues water quality guidelines, but it is the Canadian municipalities, provinces and territories that are accountable for the quality of urban water.
Thousands of Canadians carry out valuable, unpaid work to help contribute to environmental protection and conservation-including such activities as daily climate observations, ecological monitoring, and a variety of stewardship initiatives.
Wastewater is water that has been used for a human activity and allowed to run away-usually into the environment or into a treatment facility.
Disposal, processing, controlling, recycling, and reusing the solid, liquid, and gaseous wastes of plants, animals, humans, and other organisms. It includes control within a closed ecological system to maintain a habitable environment. Some of the waste materials involved are hazardous while others are simply so voluminous that their permanent disposal becomes a problem.
A colourless, odourless and tasteless liquid compound made up of hydrogen and oxygen. In environmental terms, water is one of the three main components of our physical environment-which also includes land and air. Water in general refers to rainwater, groundwater, seas, lakes, rivers, etc.
Water conservation means reducing water usage or using water more efficiently, in order to reduce pollution and health risks, lower water costs, and extend the useful life of the existing supply and waste-treatment facilities.
The quality of water as determined by its chemical and bacterial composition. To ensure the safety of drinking water in Canada, maximum allowable limits exist for all potentially harmful contaminants.
Any bird that frequents the water, or lives on or near rivers, lakes, seas, etc.-some of which are long-legged waders and others web-footed swimmers. The term is especially common for swimming game birds.
Weather and Meteorology
Meteorology is the science that studies the processes and phenomena of the atmosphere. Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a given time and place with regard to temperature, air pressure, humidity, wind, cloudiness, and precipitation. The term weather is used mostly for conditions over short periods of time.
Wetlands are land where the water table is at, near or above the surface, or which is saturated for a long enough period to create such features as wet-altered soils and water-tolerant vegetation. They include bogs, fens, marshes, swamps and shallow open water. Wetlands are threatened by human development and water pollution.
Wild animals and vegetation, especially animals living in a natural, undomesticated state.
Wind chill (Weather)
Wind chill is the cooling effect of the wind in combination with low temperatures. When it is windy, we feel colder because our skin temperature is lower. This sensation of cold is what the wind chill index quantifies: as such, the index is not a real temperature and is expressed without units, even though it is calibrated according to the Celsius temperature scale. You will find more details in our wind chill Web site
Young people between the ages of 15-25 years may contribute to environmental knowledge through their own studies and carry out activities aimed at protecting or restoring the environment. Many are active in environmental discussion groups that provide valuable input to Environment Canada's decisions and strategies.