I’m used to the smoke obscuring the sky and turning the sun into a ruby. I’m used to it being so thick that I can’t see the sides of my valley. But these last couple of days the smoke has been so thick that it’s hazy at the bottom of my yard. It hovers over the river like a morning mist.
Over the last few weeks we’ve had a nice cool spell and a little rain. It calmed the fires, which are all around us, gave some relief to the gasping vegetation and washed the smoke out of the air. It was a nice respite, but it didn’t last. The drought is still on, the temperature has gone back up and the smoke has again filled the air.
I have fond memories of opening the windows overnight to flush the house with a cool breeze. Now we’re reluctant to let in the smoke-laden air.
I’m looking forward to autumn.
EDIT: The drought level has been raised to 4 in my area. That’s on a scale of 5, where 5 is the worst. This means strict water restrictions, but without severe, punitive regulatory action.
Enchanted Light | New Mexico by Jim Crotty is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND
The drought continues this year. We had a snowpack that was pretty close to average for the valley, but then we had one of the driest springs on record. Right at the end of June, which is supposed to be the month when we get most of our spring rainfall, we got a heat wave. We saw temperatures that have never been recorded here before. For a while each day was breaking the record set the day before. What was already dry became crisp.
Our lawn knew what was happening. Normally we can count on the vigorous growth tailing off at the end of June, the weekly mowing along with it. This year the grass never really got going. So far I’ve mowed it twice, and the second time it didn’t really need it. It appears to have gone dormant. The predominant color in most yards is brown rather than green. I’m not bothering to try to keep our lawn green, I’m just trying to keep it alive. Even that is difficult in the face of watering restrictions brought on by the drought.
The forecast calls for continued hot, dry weather. There is no respite in sight, not even the occasional drenching thunderstorm we usually get in the summer. Worst of all, we’re being told to expect more of the same in the future.
On the plus side, there has been no comment from Droughtman. In the past he has said we’re not having a drought because we have a big lake full of water. He’s being quiet this year.
As for the wildfires, we were warned that conditions were right for a bad season. They were right. Fires are starting every day and spreading quickly. There are boiling clouds of smoke and steam rising up in flammagenitus, creating pyrocumulonimbus that are as big as any thunder clouds I’ve ever seen.
Eric Neitzel – CC-BY-SA
The people fighting those fires are having to concentrate on protecting human structures, because stopping them is out of the question. Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes and the province has declared a state of emergency.
My back yard. That’s smoke, not cloud.
People are saying we should get used to it and try to adapt to a future of drought and wildfires. I’d rather not have to.
Spring and early summer have been good so far this year. It has been unusually cool and wet. The numbers haven’t been extreme. We have seen months at 125% of the average. The wettest, June, was 150%. We can’t say that it’s been twice as wet as usual, even though it feels as if we should be able to. I suspect that is because it has been so much wetter than the last few years, which have been quite dry.
I can see the effects right out my window. The lawn and trees and other plants in our yard are green and luscious, without the need for a lot of irrigation. The hillsides across the valley still have a lot of green on them, which is unusual in july. The biggest and most important effect, though, is the dramatic decrease in forest fires. In the last couple of decades there have been a lot of fires, many of them large and dangerous. By this time in July there would have been hundreds of fires with tens of thousands of hectares burned. This year there have been fewer than two hundred with less than a thousand hectares burned. That shows that most of the fires have been small, extinguished before they could take off. For that we can thank the weather for keeping things wet.
This isn’t what tourists expect to find when they come to the Okanagan, but most of us who live here appreciate ti.
It’s quite a change from last spring when streams and rivers were running low and we were being warned of drought conditions. Now the map is almost all green, indicating “normal” conditions. A wet September — more than 25% over average precipitation — and an average October have allowed the ground to soak up some water and the rivers to return to more normal flows. That’s good or Droughtman might have had to tell us to carry our buckets down to the big lakes because they have lots of water. That’s his definition. If there’s water in the lakes, there’s no drought.
It has been a lovely couple of months. Such a nice change to be closer to normal temperatures and levels of precipitation after being hotter and drier for so long. The vegetation is loving it. Our lawns are almost uniformly green, and the grass that we’ve allowed to go natural also has a lot of green in it. Usually it is dry and golden and waving in the breeze. As an added bonus, the restricted irrigation schedule that we adopted earlier in the year has been more than adequate, saving both water and money while giving us a green lawn.
I could go for more of this. It’s nice to not have to worry about water.
Since last time, when the jet stream looped far up to the north of us and the drought level was set at 2, or dry, we have had a series of systems run through here bringing clouds and rain. The jet stream has waved back and forth over our area, channeling that series of storms, and now it has dropped down south of us. The upshot of all that is that we’ve had quite a bit of rain. We might end up recording more than the historical average for September by the time we’re done, although the temperature continues to trend above average. I think it’s safe to extrapolate the drought level, which was still at 2 a couple of weeks ago, to be 1, normal, now.
It’s a relief. Our lawn appreciates it, as do our trees and other plantings. Our forests surely appreciate it, as the wildfire danger rating falls. The fire east of town, as reported in the last drought report, is contained, though still smouldering. I think we can confidently say that the threat of a serious drought has been postponed. The experts still warn, though, that the land is still dry. This recent spate of rain hasn’t done much to change that. Still, the moisture feels good.