Look up! Does the sky look strange? Why is the sun that odd colour? That is smoke, and it has travelled to Manitoba all the way from the United States’ west coast.
At least 35 people have died in the west coast wildfires, including 24 in California, 10 in Oregon and a child in Washington State.Weather conditions are not expected to improve any time soon as high winds of up to 40 mph are forecast in the coming days in parts of California. Both California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti have attributed the intensity of this season's fires to climate change.
Large swathes of Oregon and Washington State are experiencing hazardous air quality. The EPA says the air quality in Salem, Oregon's capital, is so bad that people need to stay indoors and reduce activity levels. Environment Canada has issued air quality advisories for all of southern and central British Columbia as well as southwestern Alberta. Air Quality Health Index values in southern BC are currently at 10+, or Very High Risk
Environment Canada says that the smoke currently covering the sky in Manitoba is too high to impact air quality at ground level. They predict that a cold front will pass through our region over the next couple of days, and this will clear much of the smoke. As the front passes, however the vertical mixing of warm and cold air will bring some smoke lower and the air may actually smell like smoke. Manitoba is not expected to experience serious air quality issues at this time.
When The Empire-Advance spoke to the meteorologist from Environment Canada, she noted that significant smoke in the atmosphere is doubly challenging for forecasters. The smoke blocks some UV radiation from the sun which reduces daytime temperatures, but it does not provide an insulating blanket like cloud which allows night time temperatures to drop lower.