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Unrelenting smoke from U.S. wildfires continues to impact most of Canada

Thursday, September 17th 2020, 12:45 pm - The smoke from the U.S. wildfires continues to blanket Canadian skies. B.C. continues to be impacted the most, where air quality remains very poor.

Smoke from the devastating wildfires in the western U.S. has blown north and is blanketing parts of British Columbia. The smoke is also pushing east across Canada and is creating noticeable impacts.

The smoke has been aggressively dense in B.C. and has caused very poor, potentially hazardous air quality for several days. Environment Canada has kept air quality statements in place for much of the province.

"Localized smoke concentrations may vary widely across the region as winds and temperatures change, and as wildfire behaviour changes," says Environment Canada in the statement issued for Metro Vancouver.

RELATED: 'It’s like there’s not enough oxygen in the air' in the U.S. West

The agency also said the fine particulate matter advisory remains in effect for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District due to wildfire smoke from outside the region.

RELATED: Wildfire smoke could increase COVID-19 risk

Environment Canada's air quality health index lists air quality at moderate to very high risk for many parts of southern B.C. as of Thursday, meaning those with health issues should reduce or postpone outdoor activities until the air quality statements are dropped.

"Exposure to PM2.5 is particularly a concern for people with underlying conditions such as lung disease, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and/or diabetes, individuals with respiratory infections such as COVID-19, pregnant women and infants, children, and older adults. Individuals who are socially marginalized may also be at elevated risk," cautions Environment Canada.


The nearly stationary upper low in the Pacific is drawing in smoke northward along the West Coast, and thanks to a southerly flow in place this week, will push more of it into B.C. The good news is that the smoke from the western U.S. wildfires will no longer be an issue in the long range forecast.

“The wind shift will start late Thursday as the upper low moves ashore, bringing cleaner air to the LML while the Southern Interior will likely see smoke hold in the valleys. The smoke is helping to suppress temperatures by a couple of degrees and will hold them in the mid to upper 20s through Friday across the Interior,” says The Weather Network meteorologist Kevin MacKay.

“The showers will impact the LML by Friday and extend inland by Saturday, which will create a cleaner Pacific westerly flow.”

AB/BC temps

On the weekend, scattered showers and thunderstorms are possible for the Interior Saturday, but no significant rain is expected for southernmost areas. Temperatures will cool off, but remain near seasonal, continuing into early next week. There is the potential for a more widespread wetter period mid- to late-next week.


Smoke from the wildfires in the western United States has pushed east across the country. Parts of Alberta could continue seeing wildfire smoke on Thursday, particularly in central regions.

“Moderate wildfire smoke will push up towards central Alberta and potentially higher smoke will be seen in southern parts of the province,” says The Weather Network meteorologist Ida Hung.

"Hazy skies in Ontario will continue tomorrow, but the smoke will remain in the upper atmosphere," Hung adds.

"It's amazing to think just how close we are to some of these wildfires burning, geographically speaking, but we haven't really been smoked out," said The Weather Network's Alberta reporter, Kyle Brittain.

"And really, that's a function of not having been in that southwest wind."

The smoke also tracked into Saskatchewan and Manitoba during the early part of this week, which made for hazy and smoky skies in both provinces. The smoke over both provinces remained in the upper atmosphere, with no significant impacts to their air quality index readings.


Southern Ontario began to see hazy, smoky skies on Monday as a result of the wildfire smoke pushing in.

While the wildfire smoke will continue to track across parts of Ontario through Sept. 22, it is expected to remain aloft and no significant air quality impacts are anticipated.


Latest air quality advisories can be found on The Weather Network's Alerts page.

Thumbnail courtesy: Jaclyn Whittal

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