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‘Big shift’ to rainy, cool fall weather headed for Vancouver Island after drought

Rain in the week-long forecast starts Friday after just millimetres since July
Rain is expected to return on Oct. 21 after three months of almost no precipitation and hot weather in Greater Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)

The weather station at the Victoria International Airport recorded just two millimetres of precipitation since July.

That combined with a shorts-worthy Thanksgiving weekend and temperatures hovering in the upper teens have made it feel like an extended summer on the south Island. In the race between what will leave first – the hot and dry weather or pop-up Halloween stores – rain in the forecast Friday (Oct. 21) is expected to help the latter eke out a narrow victory.

“We are in for a major shift in the weather,” said Alyssa Charbonneau, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. “We have a weather system that is expected to come through (Friday), it’s going to spread some rain and much cooler temperatures right across the southwest of B.C.”

The past three months saw just a few weak systems moving through for maybe a day before hot and dry conditions returned, Charbonneau said. That was driven by a persistent high-pressure ridge settled over western Canada that had steered incoming coastal storms to Alaska and the Yukon.

“So the storm track was just kind of coming up and over us, rather than coming across the B.C. coast as it typically does at this time of the year,” the meteorologist said.

There is some concern over how dry soils will react when that consistent rainfall hits, but Charbonneau said the good news is, initial precipitation won’t be too heavy – helping to gradually moisten the ground. Another concern is drought-weakened trees amid forecasted storms with the potential to bring stronger gusts and rains in the coming week, but it’s too early to know exactly how that will play out, Charbonneau said.

“Our best hope I think, is a slow shift to wetter weather that is sort of sustained and helps to replenish our water.”

Charles Curry, acting lead of regional climate impacts at the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, said it’s been drier than usual and forest fires this late in the year are a good tell of that.

But the researcher from the University of Victoria-hosted consortium stressed that weather patterns like that of the last three months can vary greatly from year to year.

Before the dry weather and daily temperature records being broken are directly attributed to climate change, Curry said this year’s weather data will have to be looked at in a multi-year set. He added climate scientists will be keeping an eye on whether similar local dry spells and hot fall days persist in future years to see if anything especially abnormal is going on.

Curry noted a positive is Sooke reservoir levels have remained high even as other parts of the province implemented water restrictions.

As the first storms hit, Charbonneau reminded people that roads could be slippery and encouraged them to clear their gutters while they still have the chance.

“It’s going to be a big shock for us all to go from basically summer right into the middle of fall.”

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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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