Some things are always changing….

We’ve just begun our third winter in Kelowna. Far too soon to be detecting trends, but not too soon to start wondering….

Take weather and climate for instance. Thanks to the Internet, it’s possible now to do direct comparisons of weather for a particular place from year to year. Kelowna, we’d been told when we arrived, can be counted on for two main weather patterns: extremely hot summers and (by Canadian standards) cloudy but fairly dry winters with temperatures fluctuating from cold to mild through most of December, January and February. Spring and fall would vary, but mostly they’d be very pleasant.

According to its entry on Wikipedia, Kelowna’s climate is summarized in this chart and described below:kelowna-climate-data-wikik

Climate (footnote numbers and links removed, edited for brevity)
“Kelowna experiences a borderline Oceanic/Humid continental climate (Köppen Cfb/Dfb) due to its coldest month having an average temperature slightly above −3.0 °C (26.6 °F), with dry, hot and sunny summers, cold, cloudy winters and four seasons. The official climate station for Kelowna is at the Kelowna International Airport, which is at a higher altitude than the city core with slightly higher precipitation and cooler nighttime temperatures. The moderating effects of Okanagan Lake combined with mountains separating most of BC from the prairies moderates the winter climate, but Arctic air masses do occasionally penetrate the valley during winter, usually for very short periods.

Weather conditions during December and January are the cloudiest in Canada outside of Newfoundland thanks to persistent valley cloud. As Okanagan Lake hardly ever freezes, warmer air rising from the lake climbs above colder atmospheric air, creating a temperature inversion which can cause the valley to be socked in by cloud for weeks on end with no respite. This valley cloud has a low ceiling however, and often bright sunshine can be experienced by driving only 20 minutes or so up into the nearby mountains, above the cloud.

Summers in Kelowna are hot (sometimes extremely hot) and sunny, with daytime temperatures often exceeding 32 °C (90 °F)…. Heat waves may occur in July, August and even June and September on occasion, where temperatures above 30 °C persist for weeks. During summer clear, dry air allows night-time temperatures to fall rapidly.

The city averages about 380 millimetres (15 in) of precipitation per year, with about 1/5 of the precipitation falling as snow, the bulk in December and January; however, June is the wettest month of the year.

…Kelowna has the greatest percentage of “calm” wind observations for any major city in Canada (39% of the time). The four-year average wind measured at the airport has been less than 5 knots on average 10/12 months of the year between 2008 and 2011. …Kelowna has an average high temperature…above freezing every month of the year—exceptionally rare for a Canadian city located inland…. Kelowna’s average year-round high temperature of about 14.6 degrees is also one of the highest in Canada—largely thanks to the rare combination of high summer temperatures typical of continental climates, along with relatively mild winters—a very rare feature of a continental climate.”

So what do recent records show? For the three years we’ve been here, the annual weather summaries provided by weatherspark.com look like this:

kelowna-temps-2014
2014
kelowna-temps-2015
2015
kelowna-temps-2016-so-far
2016 so far….

While the average pattern is similar, there are large discrepancies in the details. None of this is unusual or surprising. Yet, because many cannot accurately remember such apparently picayune facts,  we often conflate them or simply “misremember.”

The graphs alone, as enlightening as they should be, are a bit overwhelming for anyone who’s not a fanatic about this data. There are easier ones, like those produced by Accuweather that make it a bit easier to compare individual months:

kelowna-temperatures-june-2015

kelowna-temperatures-june-2016
We can see that mid June 2016 was considerably cooler than the previous June. Also, just because it’s warm at the beginning of the month, it doesn’t mean the whole month is going to be a scorcher….

How about July and August for those two years?

kelowna-temperatures-july-2015

kelowna-temperatures-july-2016

July 2016 was, like June, considerably cooler than July 2015.

kelowna-temperatures-august-2015

kelowna-temperatures-august-2016
August was similar in both years, but a little warmer at the end in 2016 than in 2015.

How the temperatures play out has a lot to do with how we feel about a place, I think.
While many were disappointed that the summer of ’16 was a little chilly, I was delighted. The scorcher of ’15 was much harder to take. I wonder if wildlife felt the same way….

CLICK MAP BELOW TO ENLARGE in a new tab.

kelowna-area-map

Because the Kelowna region has suffered some devastating forest fires in the past 16 years, many folks are inclined to believe that there are terrible fires every year: this is simply not so as the account below (from Wikipedia) shows:

Area seasonal wildfires [Wikipedia] Note: fires on the west side of Okanagan Lake are in blue; those on the Kelowna proper side, east of the lake are in red.

  • On 7 May 1992, a forest fire consumed 60 hectares of forest on Mount Boucherie in West Kelowna across Lake Okanagan from Kelowna proper: no homes were damaged, however.
  • In August 2003, a nearby wildfire destroyed over 200 homes and forced the temporary evacuation of approx. 30,000 residents [mostly in the Upper Mission or Okanagan Mountain areas well south of most of the city]. During the 2003 fire, many trestles of the historic Kettle Valley Railway [near Myra] were destroyed. All the trestles have been rebuilt to look like the originals but using smaller dimension beams.
  • In late August 2005, a 30 hectare fire caused multiple evacuations in the Rose Valley subdivision across the lake in West Kelowna.
  • In July 2009 wildfires destroyed hundreds of hectares of forest and a number of buildings in West Kelowna; 17,000 residents were evacuated.
  • In July 2009, a 100 hectare fire near Rose Valley resulted in the evacuation of 7,000 people. No structures were lost.
  • In July 2009, a 9,200 hectare fire behind Fintry resulted in the evacuation of 2,500 people. No structures were lost.
  • On 12 July 2010, a 30 hectare fire in West Kelowna destroyed one home and caused multiple evacuations.
  • September 2011, a 40 hectare fire in West Kelowna’s Bear Creek Park caused the evacuation of over 500 people.
  • In July 2012, a 30 hectare fire caused the evacuation of the small community of Wilson’s Landing just north of West Kelowna.
  • In September 2012, a late season, 200 hectare fire destroyed 7 buildings and resulted in the evacuation of 1,500 people in the community of Peachland.
  • In July 2014, a 340 hectare fire behind the West Kelowna subdivision of Smith Creek caused the evacuation of 3,000 people.
  • In August 2014, a 40 hectare fire above Peachland resulted in the evacuation of one home.
  • In July 2015, a 55 hectare fire in the Joe Rich area caused the evacuation of over 100 properties.
  • In July 2015, a 560 hectare fire near Shelter Cove caused the evacuation of 70 properties.
  • In August 2015, a 130 hectare fire burned near Little White mountain, [several km] south of Kelowna.”

Not only have there NOT been fires every year, Kelowna itself has been fairly free of this summer devastation through this century. West Kelowna and the west side of the lake, however, have not been as fortunate.

As for what a forest fire in the area looks like, here are some shots of the Little White Fire of 2015 from our home. The second set of photos shows what it looked like from the beach about 300 meters from our condo. And one shot of a water bomber passing over our balcony…. As usual, click on images to enlarge….

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