Friday, June 12, 2015

Dry weather sparks wildfire concern in W. Canada

A report from Canada's national weather service predicted an unusually hot, dry summer for British Columbia in west Canada, and has put experts on alert for what could turn into an extreme season of wildfires across the province.

Environment Canada reported in its seasonal forecast that this summer would bring hotter and drier conditions than normal to the mountainous and heavily forested province of British Columbia, as part of what appears to be an El Nino pattern.

The average temperature for July in Vancouver is usually around 22 degrees Celsius, but over the first two weeks of June, the mercury has been pushing close to 30 degrees each day, without rains.

The hot, dry weather provides an obvious benefit for Vancouver and British Columbia when it comes to attracting tourists and keeping local beaches full, but it also makes for a dangerous season across the province's vast forests, which are vulnerable to devastating wildfires when facing a prolonged lack of rain.

Last year, the province spent nearly 300 million CAD (240 million U.S. dollars) on fighting wildfires, more than four times the annual budget. This summer could be even worse after a full year of dry weather that left British Columbia's mountains with low snowpack, said University of British Columbia (UBC) forest ecology professor Lori Daniels.

The forestry science expert told Xinhua on Wednesday that they had just gone through a winter with record-low snowpack in much of the province.

"So, not a lot of moisture in the ground to kind of the forest and then we're super-imposing on that warm, dry conditions already this spring, and the warmest, driest part of our summer is still to come," Daniels said.

Weather data shows that the number of high-risk days for forest fires has been increasing in recent years, she added.

"Those extreme days are pushing earlier in the spring and also pushing later back into the fall. So we have longer periods, with greater droughts in the summertime that are prime for forest fires," Daniels said. 

  Xinhua -


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