Warmer weather becoming the norm for Abbotsford

2018 was 11th warmest on record, but cooler than 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Last year was significantly warmer than the historical average but in keeping with a distinct warming trend for Abbotsford over the last decade.

The average temperature at Abbotsford International Airport in 2018 was 11.1 C, making the year the 11th warmest since local records were first kept in 1945. The historical norm is 10.4 C, but 2018 was completely ordinary when compared with more recent records. Indeed, of the last five years, three were warmer, including 2015, which was the hottest year on record in Abbotsford.

“There’s definitely a clear trend there of warmer and warmer conditions with climate change, as you’d expect,” Environment Canada meteorologist Matt MacDonald told The News. The summer was the sixth warmest and fifth driest on record, punctuated by eight days of above-30-degree weather in late July.

“It was, overall, warm with lots of stretches with prolonged heat,” MacDonald said. Long stretches of hot dry weather “seems to be a reoccurring theme,” as ridges of high pressure become locked in place for long periods of time, he said.

May was also the hottest on record and extremely dry, with temperatures nearly three degrees above normal and the city receiving only one-fifth the normal amount of rain.

Many weather-related memories of the last two summers will revolve not around the sun, but around the smoke that again swept into the Lower Mainland. The amount of smoky days the region has seen over the last two years is unprecedented.

Before 2017, 1989 had been the smokiest on record. That year, 67 hours of smoke were recorded.

But if Abbotsford gets that amount of smoke in 2019, residents may actually be relieved. Last year, 150 hours of smoke were recorded at Abbotsford International Airport, a stifling tally that contributed to more than 20 air quality advisories. And 2017 was actually smokier, with 251 hours recorded – more than three times the previous record. A report in early September bemoaned the “unprecedented degradation of air quality” in the region.

The year ended with a large wind storm in December that felled trees across the city and left thousands without power. One gust of wind was reported to have been measured at 101 km/h. But the day was still far from the windiest in Abbotsford’s blustery history; December’s gust came up far short of the record gust of 145 km/h measured more than 50 years ago, in October of 1962.

Those gusts came as the remnants of Typhoon Freda slammed into the British Columbia coast and combined with another low pressure system. The result was the strongest storm to hit the region in recorded history, knocking down thousands of trees around the region and causing more than $600 million in damage.

As 2019 dawns, weather watches will be seeing how long the region can go without snow. Typically, Abbotsford gets 16 centimetres of the white stuff in December and 55 centimetres over the course of an entire winter. But Abbotsford International Airport saw no snow in the last months of 2018 and 2019 has gotten off to a wet and balmy start. Snowfall records are inconsistent, though, so it’s unclear what the least amount of snowfall Abbotsford has seen over the course of a winter.

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