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Heat, drought—and possibly fire—expected this summer

We're still figuring out the impacts of the last heat wave, but a new one could arrive soon

By Cameron Welch
April 23, 2023
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Heat, drought—and possibly fire—expected this summer

We're still figuring out the impacts of the last heat wave, but a new one could arrive soon

By Cameron Welch
Apr 23, 2023
Finlayson Arm burns in early October. Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily
Finlayson Arm burns in early October. Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Heat, drought—and possibly fire—expected this summer

We're still figuring out the impacts of the last heat wave, but a new one could arrive soon

By Cameron Welch
April 23, 2023
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Heat, drought—and possibly fire—expected this summer
Finlayson Arm burns in early October. Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily

This month the province warned BC residents to be wary of flooding this spring and of heat and wildfires this summer (and even in late spring). An especially hot summer is being projected for BC by weather analyses including the Farmers’ Almanac, although Environment Canada’s official summer projections will not come out until next month.

There is a broader expectation of extreme heat globally this year. El Niño conditions, typically associated with higher temperatures, are returning after years that already often featured record heat despite being under the typically cooler La Niña conditions.

The Island may currently be less in danger of melting-snow floods than most of BC, since it has among the lowest snowpack levels. It was at 76% of normal as of earlier this week, compared to BC’s 88% average (though it's no longer not as low as the 62% seen in January).

But that low snowpack only amplifies drought risks. The Island was hit hard by the record-setting fall 2022 drought and heat that the province is now citing as part of the reason for concern going into this summer.

“As a result of drought conditions, the BC Wildfire Service is observing more advanced fire behaviour than what is typical at this time of year,” Forests Minister Bruce Ralston said in this month’s weather warning announcement.

The Island has had extreme drought conditions for much of the past two summers. Despite that, its populated areas have been mostly unaffected by fire—unlike regions such as Lytton, which two years later is still not yet being rebuilt.

But as we saw in 2021, the heat alone can do plenty of damage. That summer, heat killed 55 Islanders and more than 600 BC residents.

📸 A cooling station on Victoria’s hottest-ever day. Photo: Colin Smith / Capital Daily

As another hot summer approaches, 2021 heat still being researched

Most BC “heat dome” victims were older, most lacked fans or air conditioners at home, and most had three or more chronic physical and/or mental health disorders. A new study this year found that many chronic conditions were associated with significant increases in mortality in the heat dome—including diabetes, asthma, substance use disorder, and particularly schizophrenia

The province’s 2022 report was criticized for under-incorporating disability concerns, and as another summer approaches there are concerns the province still hasn’t done enough to prepare to protect its most at-risk residents.

The BC CDC continues analyzing heat dome deaths and hospital visits, while a month ago UVic and the Capital Regional District launched a survey on recent extreme heat in our region. It is intended to learn more about how that heat in the region has affected people, especially vulnerable populations, to help with local response planning.

The dome also caused plenty of non-human harm in Island waters. It is believed to have damaged undersea cables transporting power between the Island and mainland, and it killed intertidal creatures all across Island coastlines as part of the estimated billions deaths of BC marine species during the event. Another year of extreme heat could stymie the recoveries these populations began making in 2022.

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Cameron Welch
Newsletter Editor
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