It’s not a summer we will forget. The phrase “heat dome” entered our vocabulary became part of the explanation for the enduring, intense heat.
The latter part of June and early July saw temperatures rise in western Canada which broke historical records. Environment Canada said the temperature in Lytton BC rose to 49.6 (121.3F) on June 29. Most of the town burned to the ground after a fire.
The human toll was unprecedented. The BC Chief Coroner reported that the 579 sudden deaths which occurred over five days during this heat wave were a 195% increase during the same time frame in a normal year. (The BC Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth noted that the province saw just three heat-related deaths over the past five years).
Moreover, emergency services were forced to leave behind the bodies of victims as police and ambulances responded to other urgent calls for service. Emergency dispatchers responded to nearly 15,300 calls on June 26 and 27 which is about 55% above normal for the month.
The consequences for BC from the scorching weather are yet to come. With no rain in sight in long-term forecasts (as of July 9, 2021), the coastal forests are likely to suffer. David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada said the heat phenomenon was “almost biblical”. Having so many temperature records broken early in the summer has put the first week of June in a class by itself in Canadian weather records.
Locally, we can see the impact of hot summers in the parks which the Province closes to the public when they become too dry. Birds are sensitive to heat and will become less active and spend more time on the ground in the shade. It’s eerie to walk through municipal parks and experience a birdless silence.
Given that the forest brings us shade and cooler temperatures, enjoy the Sanctuary or your favourite park early in the day.
John Anderson is a volunteer at the Morrell Nature Sanctuary
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