The wildfire smoke that has helped drop temperatures, obscured views and prompted air quality alerts in some parts of southern Alberta in recent days may disappear from most of the province overnight — but could return later this week.
Smoke from U.S. forest fires in Washington, Oregon and California blew into Alberta on Saturday, prompting Environment and Climate Change Canada to issue air quality alerts for the southwest portion of the province, including Waterton Lakes National Park, Pincher Creek, Crowsnest Pass, and Cardston County.
As of Monday afternoon, there were air quality advisories still in place for Crowsnest Pass and Cardston, along with Banff and Kananaskis, which were issued around 11:30 a.m.
Calgary remained largely unscathed — and the Weather Network's Kyle Brittain told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday that if the winds stayed just right and aloft, the city might dodge the worst of the smoke.
"It's amazing to think just how close we are to some of these wildfires burning, geographically speaking, but we haven't really been smoked out. And really, that's a function of not having been in that southwest wind," Brittain said.
"We've had a much cleaner northwesterly flow, kind of preventing us from getting into the real smoky air.… So at the surface, the smoke is not expected to get too bad here in Calgary."
However, the smoke has contributed to the chillier weather that Albertans experienced since Saturday.
"It was a lot cooler than it could have been, because there was a thick layer of smoke aloft that prevented that sunshine from getting in and heating up the ground," Brittain said.
Environment Canada says the higher smoke concentrations were expected to move out of most regions of the province overnight Monday.
The exception would be in the Pincher Creek and Cardston regions, where smoke will persist into Tuesday, Environment Canada said.
Haze could keep temperatures cool, expert says
However, Brittain says the smoke could worsen by the end of the week in Calgary if the winds start to shift.
"There is another period of time we're looking at — Thursday, Friday — where a lot of smoke could build up in the northwest states and blow this direction during that time," Brittain said.
"The degree to which that will be in the low levels, impacting our air quality directly, remains to be seen. It might stay aloft … and just provide a lot of haze and just kind of like, cloudy, grey, murky-looking conditions for us."
La Niña to bring snowier, colder winter
In terms of longer-term predictions, the Weather Network issued its fall forecast on Monday for the whole country, including Alberta.
Brittain says the forecast suggests Alberta should see near-normal temperatures and slightly above average precipitation for the fall.
It also predicted Alberta shouldn't be rocked by any abrupt storms in the fall."Initially here, we're still looking at several weeks of, in general, warmer and drier than average conditions. But toward the end of fall, we're looking at that transition toward more La Niña conditions," Brittain said.
La Niña — which is El Niño's chiller cousin — is expected to cool the average sea surface temperature in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.
"So we're going to be seeing cooler and snowier than average conditions starting to develop along the Rocky Mountains, and that cold air is going to kind of take hold across parts of Western Canada at that point in time," Brittain said.
With files from Colleen Underwood and the Calgary Eyeopener.