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 the last report where the drought level was easing due to low temperatures and wet conditions, things are picking up again. While Droughtman seized the opportunity to point out that the wildfire hazard was low, it didn’t last. We’ve had a few hot, dry days and the scale is back up to very high, just short of an extreme hazard. — Breaking news: it just went up to extreme. — July was the only month to exceed normal during this period when we expect to get a good share of our annual precipitation, and it didn’t even reach 115%.
It looks as if the jet stream might be thinking of moving into its usual summer position, which is well to the north of us. When that happens we settle in for that long period of summer heat that we’ve usually had, or at least begun by now. This year, though, the jet stream seems to have stalled with an arm of it looping down to the west of us. That means there’s an avenue for a series of weather systems to pass nearby or right over us. Hence the lower temperatures and wetter weather.
The fire suppression crews got control of the big fire that was threatening to come over the mountain and descend on us. Those people are champs.
One of these times I’m going to have to talk about the deep duff.
Already we have surpassed the average rainfall for July, at only the three-quarter mark. This has allowed the drought level to be reduced from 3 to 2. That means our conditions have gone from “very dry” to “dry.”
What has Droughtman got to say about this? He says that 2019 has been very rainy, even though July has been the only month this spring/summer to reach normal levels of precipitation. He reiterates that the big lakes have a lot of water. To his credit, this time he didn’t say that means there’s no drought. Maybe he forgot to mention it.
Here’s hoping this unusually cool and wet July continues and carries over into August. It has been a nice change and we can use it. The wildfire hazard is down, a relief after the last two years of big fires. If we keep getting rain, maybe the aquifers will have a chance to recharge. With higher temperatures in the forecast, it would be good to build up a bit of a buffer.
We had a splendid thunderstorm pass through last night, with near-continuous lightning and some rain. Hopefully the lightning-caused fires can be knocked down before they do too much damage.
Droughtman is strangely quiet these days. It has been cool and cloudy and is forecast for more of the same, with the possibility of precipitation, and he hasn’t said anything snide about it. It might have something to do with the latest information from our water management people. They have raised the drought level to 3, very dry. Although that would normally trigger Droughtman to sneer at them and point out that there’s still water in the big lakes, they also mentioned that Okanagan Lake, the biggest, is low. His go-to proof that he knows more than they do has let him down, and he has gone quiet. In addition, the upper-elevation reservoirs, which Droughtman had failed to consider in his earlier claims, have failed to fill this year.
All this is giving water utilities cause for concern. Their supplies look as if they might not meet demand, so they are replacing voluntary measures with restrictions on their customers’ use of water. So far it’s just for outdoor use, such as watering lawns and gardens on a strict schedule, but if it continues dry the restrictions will escalate. Already the lakes are low, as are the reservoirs and some wells, and even with the cooler and damper weather recently, we’re well below average for precipitation. It could be that all this information has been enough to quiet even Droughtman.