Regina, Saskatoon spend a mixed 186 hours blanketed in wildfire smoke to this point this 12 months

Not only has it been a hot and dry month for most of Saskatchewan, but it’s also been smoky from wildfires.

Regina has recorded 119 smoke hours as of Aug. 5 compared to just five in 2020, according to data provided to CBC News from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). Smoke hours are recorded by ECCC when smoke is included in an hourly weather update in a given city.

The 119 smoke-filled hours in Regina are the most the city has seen since 2015, when 173 smoke hours were recorded.

“Considering we’re just at the beginning of August, 119 is quite high for the city of Regina,” said Janelle Gergely, a meteorologist with ECCC.

“Saskatoon is a little bit of a better story right now.”

Saskatoon has had 67 smoke hours so far this year, compared to three last year. The most smoke hours Saskatoon has had in recent years was in 2018 with 150.

Short reprieve, then back to smoke and heat

Gergely said the amount of wildfire smoke in the province is dependent on winds and where they’re coming from.

She said the winds currently look like they’ll be coming from northern B.C. and Alberta, where there aren’t a lot of active fires, so there was some reprieve on Sunday that should continue into early Monday.

However, there could be a shift on Monday with winds coming from parts of the U.S. where there are more fires.

“Then as soon as Wednesday, we’re in that westerly flow again, which means we’re probably going to see smoke from aloft coming in from those interior B.C fires,” she said.

In other words, air quality advisories will likely come and go in southern parts of the province this week.

In parts of the north, air quality will likely continue to be impacted by smoke from wildfires in that part of the province, according to Gergely, but the smoke shouldn’t spread too far south.

“If we’re experiencing a northerly flow in the winds, 100 per cent that will affect southern Saskatchewan. However, that’s not the case right now, so it’s more that those fires are locally affecting air quality,” she said.

Gergely said there will likely be at least some smoke in the air for the rest of the summer, though, regardless of where you are in the province.

“Unfortunately, as long as there’s wildfires burning this summer and into the fall, it’s very likely that there’ll be some concentration of smoke in the air until those are out,” she said.

“It’s not really great news, however, there will be variations in that concentration as the winds shift.”

Pay attention to advisories and warnings

As of Sunday evening there were several air quality advisories in the northeast part of the province.

Gergely said people should pay attention to those advisories for their own wellbeing.

“Any time the air quality health index is above seven, everyone can be negatively impacted by the smoke,” she said.

“But those that are primarily susceptible would be the elderly, children, those doing strenuous exercise outside, as well as those who are working outdoors.”

She said people should limit their outdoor activity outside when there’s an advisory in place, adjust their air conditioners to recirculate air instead of bringing in outside air and, of course, drink plenty of water.

There were also heat warnings in the southeast corner of Saskatchewan, and Gergely said there could be more around the province this week, with peak temperatures arriving near the weekend.

In Regina and Saskatoon a heat warning is issued when there are two consecutive days at 32 degrees or warmer, with overnight lows of 16 degrees or warmer, according to Gergely.

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