UPDATE Wednesday: Metro Vancouver’s air quality advisory for the Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley has now been ended.
Earlier Tuesday morning, Metro Vancouver had not yet considered the air quality in the region a concern. The advisory was issued Tuesday but as of Wednesday morning, it was ended due to a change in the weather patterns.
“This smoke is coming all the way from southern Oregon, northern California and some fires in Washington, so by the time it gets here, the smoke is quite high in the atmosphere,” said Francis Ries, the air quality climate change division project engineer with Metro Vancouver.
“We are definitely seeing the impact of that smoke at our monitoring stations.”
The main indicator of poor air quality are levels of PM 2.5 (fine particulate matter), Ries said. It irritates people’s lungs, throats, noses and eyes and can cause serious problems for those with heart or lung conditions, as well as those with diabetes.
“We’re not yet at the levels that are required to trigger an advisory,” he said. “It’s really a case of if you feel you’re being impacted, take steps to limit your exposure.”
Perhaps a bigger concern are the high ground-level ozone layers, caused by temperatures expected to hit 30 degrees Celsius and higher in the valley.
“Ozone is a strong irritant,” said Ries. “The key precaution is to avoid exposure to outdoor air or strenuous exercise outdoors is definitely to be avoided on high ozone days.”
The North Shore mountains are not helping.
“We’re just on the western edge of the plume,” said Ries. “And because of this mountainous valley topography, it is catching the smoke from the upper air a little bit better.”
The western edges of the Fraser Valley also sees more winds blowing in from the Pacific, which clears the air in Vancouver and Richmond, but can also blow it into Surrey, Langley and further east. The sea breeze will eventually help clear the haze from the valley, Ries said.