Wildfire smoke and drought conditions in May? Welcome to 2019

Wildfire smoke in northern B.C. and Alberta leaves Abbotsford and the Lower Mainland in a May haze

It’s not yet June, but smoke season is already upon the Fraser Valley amid “drought conditions” for the region.

This week’s grey skies are caused by a combination of wildfire smoke from northern B.C. and Alberta, and moist, humid air from the Pacific Ocean, according to Environment Canada meteorologist Matt MacDonald.

Fortunately – if anything can be said to be fortunate about wildfire smoke in May – that smoke isn’t yet triggering air quality warnings that have become increasingly common over the last two years.

“Luckily, that smoke is remaining aloft, so the air quality at the surface is pretty good,” MacDonald said. (Other areas of B.C. have seen air quality advisories this year.)

RELATED: ‘Unprecedented degradation’ of Fraser Valley air led to record number of warnings in 2018

The overcast clouds have been burning off during the afternoon, allowing the sun to try to shine through the haze in the evening and creating some spectacular sunsets. But the region remains bone-dry for this time of year.

MacDonald said most places are 50 to 70 per cent drier than normal. Whether that will result in another summer of fire and smoke remains to be seen, though.

“We’re going to be getting some rain [next week], but I don’t think it’s going to be enough to totally alleviate the drought conditions,” MacDonald said.

Reliable predictions of long-term precipitation trends aren’t possible, MacDonald said. But meteorologists, fire crews, campers and B.C. residents can only wait to see how the next crucial month plays out.

“The amount of rain we see here in June will set the tone for the wildfire season,” he said.

RELATED: Parts of B.C. under air quality advisory due to wildfire smoke

RELATED: Low snowpack increases chance of summer water restrictions in Abbotsford and Mission


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tolsen@abbynews.com

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