Calgary

Smoky skies roll into Calgary from wildfires — 'a sign of things to come'

Air quality in Calgary listed as moderate risk for Wednesday by Environment Canada, due in part to smoke from northern Alberta wildfires.

Smoke moving in from northern Alberta could hang around for the next few days

Smoky skies over Calgary made for a dramatic sunset on Tuesday. (CBC)

Smoke is rolling back into Calgary as warmer weather arrives, and a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada says it could be foreshadowing for the upcoming summer.

The current smoke in the city is due to the fires in northern Alberta. But with forecasts calling for a dry summer with above average temperatures, it could be "a sign of things to come," said Terri Lang, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

In an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener, Lang said to expect another smoky year.

"That's what our models are indicating," said Lang, who said northern Alberta could expect a hotter and drier summer than average. When combined with dry weather in British Columbia, there's potential for more wildfires bringing more smoke down across much of the Prairies.

Smoke mapped across Alberta as of 3 PM MT on May 28, 2019. (FireSmoke.ca)

Increased smoke could also have spinoff effects such as lower temperatures and fewer thunderstorms.

"Last year, when we had all that really thick smoke … it does have a blanket effect [and filters] the sunshine," said Lang.

The lack of thunderstorms, in turn, could also impact fighting wildfires, creating a perpetuating cycle.

"We need the heat to initiate thunderstorms, so if the heat is being suppressed because of this thick blanket of smoke, we don't get the thunderstorms, and of course that's the rain that we need to sort of help them fight the fires," Lang explained.

This is the way the climate is going.- Terri Lang, Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist

The number of smoke hours last year was above average, according to Lang, who called it the "new reality," with hot, dry summers.

"It just seems to be that this is the way the climate is going," said Lang, who also said climate change is certainly a factor.

For Wednesday, air quality in Calgary is listed at moderate risk, or 5 on a 10 point scale, by Environment Canada.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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