While a recent air quality warning has been lifted for the Fraser Valley area, smoke levels remain elevated for certain times of day.
Day-long averages are staying below B.C. Ministry of Environment target levels, but there have been temporary spikes above these targets at night and into the morning when smoke settles in low-lying areas, according to Eric Taylor, an air quality meteorologist with the ministry.
“Smoke concentrations in Abbotsford are quite high,” Taylor said of the conditions on Aug. 27. Taylor said the Fraser Valley has been at risk of even higher smoke levels as the many wildfires in eastern Washington State continue to burn, but winds primarily from the southwest continue to bring the bulk of the smoke to the eastern interior of B.C.
“The real heavy smoke is being kept east of the Fraser Valley,” said Taylor, adding that the winds wouldn’t have to change much to bring smoke toward the Abbotsford area — wind straight from the south would blow smoke directly here.
Smoke levels have been highest in this area in the night and early morning because heat from the sun causes air turbulence by the afternoon that disperses smoke particles, he said.
The former air quality advisory was put in place from Aug. 23 to Aug. 25 by Metro Vancouver. Ken Reid, superintendent of environmental monitoring for Metro Vancouver, says he’s well aware of the significant haze still in Abbotsford — but a surprisingly small amount of smoke can cause this highly visible effect.
“It’s at low levels now, but it can have a very dramatic effect on visibility,” said Reid.
Smoke levels are expected to drop even further as rain starting Aug. 28 latches onto smoke particles and increases air quality. “We’re going to see a significant change,” said Reid. “The rain is going to improve air quality here and elsewhere.”
Washington State weather forecasters predict rain for eastern Washington, which will likely soothe the area’s raging wildfires. And according to Taylor, the low-pressure system moving in to western Canada and the United States will stay for awhile, which should hopefully allay air quality concerns for some time.