Poorly timed heat dome could spark new wildfires in Alberta
The first week of May started on an unusually hot note across the province of Alberta, with daily, record-high temperatures broken, and 30°C temperatures documented at a handful of weather stations.
While these daytime highs were welcome by some, they were the perfect recipe for wildfires, with the province now under a state of emergency, as more than 80 active wildfires burn.
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The dire situation has forced thousands from their homes, with the extent of the damage difficult to determine as things continue to develop and unfold.
A change in the weather conditions did help firefighters over the weekend, as light rain moved in and the humidity cleared. Temperatures also eased, as a broad trough took over the weather pattern across Western Canada. Officials say conditions remain volatile, however.
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To complicate the situation, forecasters are now eyeing another multi-day thunderstorm threat, with the risk for lightning, which could ignite new wildfires. As well as an upcoming heat dome -- an atmospheric phenomenon known to promote a heat wave or a prolonged period of hot weather.
"The wildfire threat will likely be exacerbated late week and into the weekend, as high heat and an upper-level ridge in the jet stream are forecast to return to Western Canada," Sonnenburg adds.
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A building ridge in the jet stream is what will transition to a heat dome this weekend, and that will contribute to several more days of summer-like temperatures. It will also erase any sort of rain chances right through the Mother's Day weekend.
High pressure in the upper atmosphere will act like a dome or cap, trapping the heat and warm temperatures for several days or longer.
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Temperatures into the weekend are forecast to be a concerning 10°C above normal for this time of year across northern Alberta. Daytime high temperatures will hover in the mid-to-upper 20s throughout the weekend.
In communities with elevated or high wildfire danger ratings, or could be threatened by a blaze in the near future, residents should take time now to review emergency preparedness and evacuation plans in the event of a nearby fire. Individuals and families should be prepared to take care of themselves for at least 72 hours in case of evacuation due to wildfires.