January 23, 2022

Daily heat records smashed in B.C.’s Okanagan as subtropical winds rip through region | CBC News

The calendar may read Dec. 1, but in parts of the B.C. Okanagan it felt more like mid-June suntanning weather. 

Just after 1 p.m., the temperature in Penticton reached a new daily high of 22.1 C.

That’s more than 10 degrees warmer than the previous heat record in the city for Dec. 1 of 11.2 C set in 2012, and vastly hotter than the historical daily average of 3.4 C.

Even more, Penticton’s 22.1 C makes it one of the hottest December days ever recorded in B.C., while falling just shy of the all-time Canadian heat record for December of 22.5 C set in Hamilton, Ont., on Dec. 3, 1982.

CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe calls the situation exceptional and explains it’s the current atmospheric river that’s bringing the heat. 

“Winds are very strong from the south today and that’s basically transporting the warm [subtropical] air. It’s the same reason why the tops of our mountains are melting right now,” she said. “We do expect these warm-ups when we get these river events, but this is very warm.”

Water from the third atmospheric river to hit B.C.’s southwest spills over a submerged road into a blueberry field in Abbotsford, British Columbia on Monday, Nov. 30, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Down the road from Penticton, thermostats in Summerland climbed to 20.4 C,  smashing the daily heat record there of 11.3 C recorded nine years ago.

Daily heat records also fell in surrounding cities, including Kelowna: 17.4 C versus 8.7 C in 2006; Vernon: 16.3 C versus 6.8 C in 1997; and, Osoyoos: 17 C versus 12.3 C in 2012.

The mind-boggling temperatures are in line with the extreme weather B.C has seen throughout 2021.

On June 29, Canada’s highest ever temperature of 49.6 C was recorded in Lytton during a provincewide heat dome. The next day, the entire town burned to the ground.

The town of Lytton, B.C., burned to the ground June 30, 2021, the day after recording the all-time hottest temperature in Canada at 49.6 C. (Edith Loring-Kuhanga/Facebook)

Large swaths of B.C endured historic droughts and wildfires throughout the summer, only to be hit by successive atmospheric rivers in November that brought record-setting rains and triggered catastrophic mudslides and floods.

Environment Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan said the extreme weather is consistent with climate change projections.

“It’s not going to be this extreme all the time. We will see lulls,” he said. “But the frequency, the amplitude of these events and their longevity will continue to increase in the coming years and decades.” 

Temperatures throughout the Okanagan are expected to return to “normal” by the weekend. The forecast for Penticton on Sunday calls for snow flurries and a high of -1 C.

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