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Drought and heat make for ‘very long summer’ in the Okanagan-Shuswap

Driest summer on record for Kelowna and Vernon; top-5 warmest season across the region
Smoke seen from Strathcona Beach in Kelowna in August 2023. (Scott Amis)

Environment Canada says above-seasonal temperatures combined with drought-like conditions for three straight months have made this summer in the B.C. Interior one to remember.

Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton and Salmon Arm just experienced one of their warmest and driest summers on record, with all four cities hitting mean temperatures of around 2 C above seasonal from the beginning of June through the end of August.

But along with the persistent heat came a “notable” lack of precipitation, making this summer the driest ever in Kelowna and Vernon and second driest in Penticton. Records date back to 1899.

“The combination of the warmth and lack of precipitation is what stands out,” said Armell Castellan, a meteorologist at Environment Climate Change Canada. “This is memorable from a seasonal point of view…we essentially saw July temperatures in May and that led into what was a very long summer.”

Environment Canada recognizes summer from June 1 to Aug. 30.

Kelowna and Vernon recorded just over 19 millimetres of rain in that timeframe ending on Aug. 28, falling well short of their 109 and 132 mm summertime averages, respectively.

Salmon Arm experienced the most precipitation this summer out of any hub in the region, particularly in August (27.9 millimetres), but still fell short of reaching its seasonal marks. The federal weather department says three-month statistics for the Shuswap will be released in the coming days.

READ ALSO: Okanagan-Shuswap get sweet relief, dry conditions coming back

Penticton, meanwhile, has recorded less than 10 millimeters from June through August.

“That’s an extraordinarily low amount of precipitation, not just for any individual month but for a seasonal scale,” Castellan said.

The three Okanagan hubs combined their record dryness with mean temperatures of around 21.5 C for the three-month span, marking Vernon’s second warmest summer on record, Penticton’s third warmest and Kelowna’s fourth warmest.

Drier and warmer-than-normal conditions reached their peak in mid-August when a slew of wildfires raged across the region.

Kelowna finally recorded rain on the night of Aug. 22, after not seeing any of it since July 25.

It didn’t even take the impact of a multi-day heat dome — circa 2021 — for this summer to be among the warmest ever in the Okanagan, Castellan added.

“It was never cool and often warmer all the time, maybe not record-breaking warm, but certainly daily records were set along with that dryness.”

For the rest of September, the federal forecaster anticipates more of the same.

Environment Canada says its likely the Okanagan will experience above-seasonal temperatures for the rest of autumn.

Based on 30-year averages, meteorologists say monthly means in the Okanagan for September fall around 16.7 C.

Daily highs in Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon and Salmon Arm through this week (Sept. 5 to 9) are expected to reach marks of between 22 C and 26 C.


About the Author: Logan Lockhart

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