Lightning A Major Player in This Year’s Wildfires
Prince George, B.C. – Lightning has been the spark for more than 860 of the more than 1300 wildfires in the province this year. It should come as no surprise as the number of lightning strikes in the Province this year has shattered annual averages .
As 250News reported earlier, May saw a surprisingly high number of lightning strikes in B.C. ( see previous story) with 67 thousand detected across the Province.
Environment Canada Meteorologist Matt MacDonald has been checking the numbers for lightning strikes in a 50km radius of Prince George and the numbers are very high as well “In a typical summer in the Prince George area, we see 560 lightning strikes. This year, we’ve already seen 3,569 lightning strikes, and we’re aren’t even at the end of July. So we’ve already seen six times the average this year.”
The activity is the result of a combination of factors, “Heat being the main one and atmospheric instability being the other” says MacDonald. A cool upper atmosphere, and a very warm surface, create the necessary uplift to generate the thunderstorms. “It’s been quite warm this year, July has been 2 degrees warmer than normal, June was 1 degree warmer than normal, and May was 1.5 degrees warmer than normal. That may not sound like much, but when you’re one to two degrees warmer than normal for a three month period, that’s significant. “
He says the region may get a break today, but a new bout of thunderstorms is expected to develop Friday and through the weekend.
MacDonald says the number of lightning strikes in the Prince George area in May alone has been surprising. ” This year in May, the Prince George area saw 2855 lightning strikes, and that was just in May, and the average per year is 560 so to see that many lightning strikes in one month was outstanding.”
He says it’s interesting to note that while there have been plenty of storms, only a couple were severe “There was one that affected Cache Creek that caused the flood there, we had another one at the end of June that caused some flooding in Kamloops, but otherwise, we haven’t seen severe thunderstorms that have the potential for tornadoes or large hail. There have been a lot of thunderstorms, but none of them too severe, luckily.” But those weaker thunderstorms can cause a lot of headaches for fire fighters “Because they’re not packing a lot of moisture, not a lot of precipitation, so, the worst case scenario is dry lightning so you have thunderstorms that don’t produce much rain, but lots of lightning strikes.”
Thunderstorm season is nowhere near over “July and August tend to be the most active months of the year, we’re not quite through the end of July and August has the potential for more. It’s been a really busy summer, and we’re not done yet.”