Record-breaking precipitation has drenched the province in recent weeks, a striking contrast to the hot and dry days of summer when several cities were evacuated due to wildfires.
Some of those communities, including Merritt, have been evacuated for both.
“This has been a very active streak since mid September on the heels of an extremely dry and hot summer,” said Armel Castellan, an emergency preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, during an update Wednesday (Dec. 1). Provincial officials said earlier that around a dozen atmospheric rivers had hit the province since mid-September.
The rain from this storm is hitting ground already saturated by other weather events. Castellan said that Nov. 13-15 storm saw Abbotsford get 100 millimetres of rain while Hope received 170 millimetres, both breaking records at the time.
“We are also seeing that Abbotsford has broken its November totals for precipitation by 99 millimetres,” he said. “We are also tracking Nanaimo, Victoria, Vancouver International Airport and Abbotsford (as) having broken their seasonal precipitation numbers for September, October and November, all combined.”
Castellan said that conditions like these, when heat domes bleed into record rainfall, are the signature signs of climate change.
“We have gone from some extremes to other extremes,” he said. “Unfortunately, this is consistent with what climate change has been projecting for all parts of Canada, including the mid-latitudes here in B.C.”
Many heat records were broken on Tuesday and Wednesday, Castellan said, as the third atmospheric river in just one week drenched the province, leading to rivers spilling their banks and landslides closing highways and pushing people out of their homes.
These heat records have affected freezing levels, pushing them above 3,000 metres, which is higher than most mountaintops.
“It’s not to say that it’s always going to be this extreme all the time and we will see lulls, of course, but the frequency, the amplitude of these events, and their longevity individually, will continue to increase with the coming years and decades.”