Greater Victoria endures hazy daze

Unwanted guest spurs questions left up in the air

Stinky tourists aren’t unheard of in Victoria but the latest visitor cast a wide hazy net across the lower Island.

“We’ve had forest fire smoke in the air and we suspect, although we need to do lots of analysis, that this came from Siberia and eastern Asia. I think a lot of that has cleared out,” said Steve Sakiyama, air science specialist with the Ministry of Environment.

A combination of smoke, emissions, cool marine air and the extra moisture likely created a more noticeable haze.

“We’re trying to figure out the same questions. These are our best analysis at the moment,” Sakiyama said.

“With these hot conditions, and the winds are fairly light, we don’t have a lot of this air pollution dispersing,” he said.

Marine air moving in adds to the effect. “That’s cool, moist air that tends to hang around the ground so the pollution … it stays around the ground as well.

“There’s more moisture in the air of course, when you have this air from the ocean, and that tends to stick on some of the pollution that’s in the air already – and they grow,” he added.

While Doug Lundquist won’t rule out other sources high in the atmosphere, the Environment Canada meteorologist took a second look at data and found the more recent addition of smoke likely came from the U.S.

“Up until just (Tuesday) or the day before, most of the flow was coming from the south and southeast, so Arizona,” he said. “It looks like it’s coming from south of the border. There may be more than one source of smoke, but I think the thickest came from the south.”

Add to that the homegrown pollution and wildfires across the province and there could be more in the works for the summer.

“(It) can change quite rapidly, especially if wildfires are affecting our atmosphere,” Sakiyama said. “We’re looking at a number of factors. It’s all influenced by meteorology and emissions, some of those emissions may be wildfires which is difficult if not impossible to predict.”

The haze could blow off quickly, or hang about as unwanted guests tend to.

“There’s a lot of factors on how to clear it out. … It depends on the way the wind is blowing,” Lundquist said. “For the next week or two, I think the flow will be more off the open ocean and that’s often a better direction for (Victoria).”

Resources

• Residents with health concerns can visit bcairquality.ca to find Victoria readings updated hourly.

* Follow provincial wildfires at bcwildfire.ca.

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