A cooler than normal May has set up a “critical” June, according to experts, who say the next five weeks will determine the severity of wildfire season in the Okanagan.
Just like much of 2022 so far, the month of May was cooler and drier than usual in the region. This time around, however, the dry climate comes before the year’s most pivotal weather month.
“If we don’t get rain in June, then we can often have a very concerning summer from the fire-weather perspective,” said Doug Lundquist, a meteorologist with Environment Climate Change Canada. “Right now, the outlook for summer is that it’s likely going to be in the cooler than average category, though.”
Parts of the Okanagan, most notably Penticton, failed to reach a temperature of 25 C during May, a high that’s been tallied in the city for 30 consecutive years prior to 2022.
Precipitation totals, meanwhile, also fell below monthly averages across the Okanagan, with Lundquist adding that Penticton’s 36 millimetres of rain comes in three less than its usual mark.
“Spring as a whole has been dry,” he said. “That’s kind of been the story in the Okanagan, no matter where you are.”
Regardless of what the long-term forecast says, Lundquist says it’s “all hands on deck” for the next three months and that people should be prepared for just about anything.
“I was looking at the model and there’s a hint of an extreme heat event in the Northern California and Southern Oregon boundary,” the meteorologist said.
“So, the moral of the story here is this…we (in the Okanagan) should be preparing ourselves and making sure that we’re ready for any sort of heat event.”
June is the Okanagan’s rainiest month, according to Lundquist, who anticipates the heightened risk of wildfires if precipitation numbers are still below average between now and the week after Canada Day.
Temperatures in the region during May were nearly two degrees lower than the monthly average but the so-called “delayed start” to summer should be the least of people’s concerns, according to the Kelowna-based meteorologist.
“If we don’t get our rain during the rainiest month of the year, we’re in trouble,” he said. There’s a lot of the plate here, and we can’t just sit back and not consider being prepared.”