Aug. 12 photo from Shavers Bench overlooking downtown Trail. (Guy Bertrand photo)

Little rain, lots of smoke in August

SEFC: Interestingly, August 1967 is still in the record books as the hottest and driest eighth month

August temperatures in the Southeast Fire Centre were typical for the eighth month of the year.

It was the lack of rain – under 3 millimetres (mm) compared to the usual 30 mm – along with the many lightning-caused wildfires and subsequent smoke that became the story of August 2018.

The mean monthly temperature was 20.4 C, or less than one degree warmer than normal, forecaster Ron Lakeman reported in his month-end summary from the Southeast Fire Centre weather office, located in Castlegar.

“The total monthly rainfall was only 9 per cent of normal” he said.

Even though this past August is described as “the worst wildfire season to date,” the hottest and driest August on record happened 51 years ago.

“August 1967, with only a trace of rain, still stands as the driest August on record,” Lakeman explained.

The hottest temperature last month, also a new record high for the date, was 39.8 C on Aug. 9.

“It was very close to, but not quite as hot, as the all time record hottest temperature of 40 C which was set on the 17th and 18th of August 1967,” he said.

“It’s also interesting to note that the temperature has reached or exceeded 39 degrees 12 times since 1967 but never reached 40 C again.”

Extensive wildfire smoke restricted the visibility many days between Aug. 9 and Aug. 26.

The smoke also blocked out the sunshine and limited the daytime warming some days.

The final week of the month was cooler and unsettled to remove most of the smoke but still rather dry, Lakeman added.

“The combined rainfall of the two disturbances which pushed across the southern interior was only 2.8 mm.”

Total rainfall for July and August 2018 was 11 mm compared to the same time period last summer when 9.8 mm of measurable rain fell.

The all-time low for the two month period was in 2003 with 8.2 mm rain.

The 2018 B.C. wildfire season will go down in the books as the worst on record in terms of the number of hectares burned across the province.

According to BC Wildfire Service, 1,298,454 hectares have burned as of Aug. 29, overtaking last year’s total of 1,216,053 hectares.

As of Sunday, there was one new human-caused fire in the Southeast Fire Centre, bringing the total fires this season to 429 and the total area burned to 52,553 hectares.

The Syringa Creek fire, one kilometre (km) north of Syringa Provincial Park and 13 km southeast of Deer Park, was reported as only 25 per cent contained on Sept. 2.

Discovered Aug. 11, the interface fire has consumed 1,766 hectares and an evacuation alert is still in effect.

“This site has received no significant precipitation,” BC Wildfire Service reported Monday. “Increasing temperatures combined with low (relative humidity) values and gusty winds in the afternoon are expected to further increase fire intensity. Smoke was visible from Castlegar. A Fire Behaviour Analysis is now being completed for this complex.”

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