Air quality deteriorates in Kamloops, B.C. Interior

By James Peters
July 10, 2017 - 1:48pm

KAMLOOPS — As the wind changes hour by hour, so does the air quality situation in the BC Interior.

BC Ministry of Environment Air Quality Meteorologist Ralph Adams says, when plumes of smoke blew in from the wildfire near Cache Creek last night, the clear air thickened very quickly.

"Last night around midnight, the wind changed and we had the smoke arrive," said Adams.

"We went from normal levels to levels in the hundreds in the matter of an hour. That is very normal with these kind of distant wildfires."

Adams likened the smoke trails to beams from a searchlight — narrow at the source, and gradually widening as they move further away.

"They move as the prevailing winds at high elevation move. So what's happened now is that yesterday we were out of the searchlight and today we are in the searchlight."

"We tend to think of these plumes as being enormous and very wide, but when you look at them from the satellite photos, they're actually very narrow. They're tens of kilometres at this range, so the concentrations can be very high. Yesterday in Williams Lake, they were actually peaking out around 700 micrograms per cubic metre."

While Environment Canada has confidently predicted hot and dry weather for the coming days, Adams says wind behaviour is much more difficult to predict.

"They are fluctuating quite a bit. So it's likely that, for the next few days anyway, we're going to see a continuation of this smoky and then clearing off for a while and then smoky (pattern), and that will vary between the different communities."

"We're in a situation where we have some very large fires burning, and they're in all directions at the moment — to the west of us and to the south of us. Under these conditions, we get these very rapidly-changing conditions. And there's not a lot that anyone can do about it."

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