British Columbia Sun

Erratic winds make wildfires an unpredictable adversary: experts

BC

Key takeaways: 

  • Fire usually moves in the same direction the wind blows, but mountains can problematize matters.
  • Mary-Ann Jenkins, professor emeritus of atmospheric science at York University in Toronto, stated fire typically proceeds in the same direction the wind is blowing.

Hot temperatures and dry states are the expected suspects in any wildfire season. Still, a complex interplay of topography and erratic winds can make quite challenging adversaries for firefighters, experts say.

In British Columbia, shifting windways has been a critical concern for units fighting a fire in the south Okanagan that has caused the evacuation of hundreds of houses.

Mary-Ann Jenkins, professor emeritus of atmospheric science at York University in Toronto, told fire typically proceeds in the same direction the wind is blowing.

But mountains can problematize matters, she said.

The Rockies, for example, affect a range of aspects, including humidity and localized wind directions.

“Because of the Rockies, wind can be directed through valleys. It changes — the wind over hills in the mountains and sometimes powerful downslope winds,” she said.

Also read: Vancouver police under scrutiny after demises of numerous young Indigenous females

Hot temperatures and dry states are the expected suspects in any wildfire season

“And people don’t know that winds are going up a hill till revving. They get more powerful as they go uphill before they reach the top.”

Chinook winds

Jenkins said the Rockies make a unique phenomenon called Chinook winds, which are too drying, can be experienced year-round, and can add to firefighting anguish.

“The climate conditions at the provincial level in a mountainous area are challenging to predict. Because there are so many things that can occur due to topography.”

Such unpredictability has been felt acutely near Keremeos, in British Columbia’s south Okanagan. The region’s Indigenous name is “valley of the three winds,” stated Tim Roberts, the elected provincial director.

On Monday, B.C. Wildfire Service information officer Bryan Zandberg stated winds near the Keremeos Creek fire were light, at approximately 15 kilometers per hour, allowing firefighters to improve building containment lines.

Source – CBC News

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