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Dry conditions have helped wildfires spread in western Canada -- but a change in the forecast could make things easier for firefighters.

Rain to help firefighting efforts in B.C.

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Dayna Vettese

Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 3:43 PM -

Summer So Far – Fire Season Ingredients 

The summer has been a dry one for many portions of British Columbia. Vancouver has recorded only about 40 mm of rain from June 1 through July 21; this is less than half of the average June-July rainfall for the city which is about 90 mm. Though it’s been dry in Vancouver, the main concern comes from interior portions of British Columbia where fires have been wreaking havoc over communities and causing air quality issues across the west. Fires raging in the Northwest Territories have also been an almost nation-wide concern where smoke from those fires affected Canadians from British Columbia all the way to Quebec in previous weeks.

Our Summer Outlook released at the beginning of June outlined that western Canada from British Columbia south all the way up to the Yukon would experience a warmer than normal summer and a drier than normal summer for the southern interior of British Columbia So far that has been panning out and those combined conditions are aiding in creating this active wildfire season.

As shown in the image above, temperatures have been above normal in British Columbia and the Canadian Territories with a bull’s eye in British Columbia in the interior regions. Many southern interior areas reached 40ºC and above in July including Lytton, Osoyoos, Pemberton, Ashcroft, and Kamloops.

RELATED: What is the best weather to fight forest fires?

It’s not just the heat though: July has been a dry month for British Columbia. Kamloops has recording a meagre 5 mm of rain as of July 21 with the monthly average being 31 mm (about 15% of its normal rainfall for July). Looking at other interior cities, Prince George has recorded about 50 mm in June and July which is only about 37% of its climate normal rainfall of about 130 mm for June and July. Kelowna, one town that was recently threatened by a fire of note, has only received about 11 mm in July, about 30% of its normal rainfall and we’re more than halfway through the month.

The graph above depicts the lack of rainfall in British Columbia. An important note about the graph above is that the majority of the rainfall totals for each city are from June where July has been significantly drier though both months have been below normal. Though many folks in British Columbia may not be complaining about the beautiful summer weather some of July had to offer

Forecast – Rain on the Way

There is a drawback to the incoming system and that is the fact that this instability could spark thunderstorms throughout British Columbia and many of the large wildfires experienced so far this year have been caused by lightning strikes. For more information on this subject, visit Chris Murphy’s article explaining what kind of rain is helpful to aid in distinguishing or preventing wildfires.

Forecast models are indicating a general 15-30 mm of rain with pockets of 30-60 mm of rain throughout the southern and central interior of British Columbia.

This system will move through British Columbia dropping steady rain, something this portion of the province has not received in a long while. However, some of the rain may be accompanied by thunderstorms, which could boost rain totals up, but lightning could be a concern. Looking at the weather scenario unfolding for British Columbia, as Chris Murphy also mentioned in the article linked above, this scenario is closer to a more ideal situation and is far from the worst-case-scenario we saw unfolding in western Canada throughout most of July.

The unfortunate part is that next week, it looks as though we return to the western-ridge-eastern-trough situation we had throughout most of July. The hope is that the rain that occurs with this system will help with firefighting efforts and get some moisture into the vegetation and soil to help the prevention of future fires this summer.

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