It has been unusually hot and dry this June — and that pattern appears to be in the forecast for the foreseeable future.
A heat wave has arrived, with Environment Canada calling for a high of 32 C on Wednesday (June 23) and Thursday, 37 C on Friday and 40 C on Saturday and Sunday.
To get a sense of how hot that temperature is, and how early it might occur, consider that the hottest temperature ever recorded in Kamloops was 41.7 C, and that mark on the mercury occurred twice — on July 27, 1939, and on July 16, 1941.
This week’s heat wave is a continuation of a hotter and drier than normal June. The average temperature thus far this month has been 26.2 C, with the hottest day being June 2, when the mercury hit 36 C.
To date, Kamloops Airport has recorded 14.4 millimetres of rain, with the monthly average being 37.4 millimetres.
Historically, June is the wettest month of the year in the city, with summer being the wettest season. That data may be turned upside down this year as Kamloops and the Southern Interior are mired in a historically dry spell.
Kamloops has recorded its driest spring since 1901 — the second-driest on record.
With just 10.3 millimetres of rain falling in March, April and May (known as meteorological spring) Kamloops saw just about 20 per cent of its normal rainfall.
On average, the three-month span pours 54 millimetres of rainfall over Kamloops.
Both Kelowna and Vernon had record-setting dry conditions and each city has more than 100 years of weather records. Penticton saw its fifth-driest ever spring, while even Lower Mainland locales saw dry conditions, including the driest-ever spring in Abbotsford.
According to Agriculture Canada’s Canadian Drought Monitor, Kamloops is in the “moderate drought” range. Drought conditions are assessed in an escalating range: “abnormally dry,” “moderate drought,” “severe drought,” “extreme drought” and “exceptional drought.”
The lack of rainfall leaves much of B.C. in a precarious position, with the threat of wildfires looming.
The amount of rainfall in June is one indicator used to determine how severe a wildfire season might be. But it does not always correlate.
In 2017, a fire season that saw 1.2 million hectares of the province burned and tens of thousands of people displaced due to evacuations, just 3.4 millimetres of rain fell in the region in June.
But in 2018, another record-setting year, June precipitation was near the average, with 36.8 millimetres falling.
The BC Wildfire Service’s seasonal outlook for June acknowledges the dry conditions.
So far, the area burned this year is below average, but there has been a slightly above average number of fires.
“Despite the dry conditions in the south, the amount and average size of wildfires have been relatively low when compared to historical data,” the report reads. “This reduced fire size is likely due to seasonal ‘green up’ of grass and other fuels.”
The wildfire service said if current weather trends continue, the province can expect the frequency and size of fires to increase.
Last year, a cool and soggy June and July meant the first heat wave of the season, accompanied by a special weather statement from Environment Canada, did not arrive until July 25.