Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

B.C.'s thick, smoky September skies ranked #2 weather story in Canada in 2020

"For eight consecutive days in mid-September, about four million British Columbia residents, urban and rural, and young and old smelled smoke and breathed foul air." 
Back in September, a thick blanket of smoke from numerous wildfires currently blazing south of the border rolled into British Columbia and Alberta, creating multiple ominous-looking sunsets and sending the city's air quality plummeting for nearly two weeks. Photo via Getty Images

Remember the smoky September we had in Vancouver this year?

While the COVID-19 pandemic was at the forefront of Canadian news this year, there were several significant weather events across the country.

Today, Environment and Climate Change Canada's Senior Climatologist, David Phillips, and Physical Science Specialist, Chantal McCartin, announced the 25th annual edition of Canada's Top Ten Weather Stories, which included B.C.'s poor air quality in September.

The climate experts note that while the impacts of COVID-19 are devastating, the impacts of a changing climate have not slowed either. Across the country this year, Canadians were impacted by another year of extreme weather events—from destructive summer hailstorms, thick smoky skies, to powerful tornadoes.

People with pre-existing health conditions were cautioned to reduce their time spent outdoors due to possible exposure to fine particulate matter.

While there were only a few home-grown fires this year in B.C.--owing to a cooler and wetter spring--there was a record amount of imported wildfire smoke in September.

"Visible from space, dense smoke plumes from forest fires in the U.S states of Washington, Oregon and California travelled northward into British Columbia’s southern airshed," explains Environment Canada. 

"Residents from Victoria and Vancouver east to Kamloops, Kelowna, and in the Kootenay region faced some of the worst air quality in recorded history and some of the poorest and unhealthiest air in the world. For eight consecutive days in mid-September, about four million British Columbia residents, urban and rural, and young and old smelled smoke and breathed foul air." 

Weather stories across Canada

Calgary, known as the hailstorm capital of Canada, topped the charts this year with the most damaging hailstorm in Canadian history. On June 13, hail the size of tennis balls was propelled by wind speeds up to 70 kilometres per hour, shaking houses, shattering windows, and downing trees.

Among the other top weather events includes the record-breaking "Snowmageddon" in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, which brought 76 centimetres of snow to the city within an 18-hour period.

Canada's Top Ten Weather Stories of 2020 are ranked from 1 to 10, according to factors that include the impact they had on Canada and Canadians, the extent of the affected area, economic impacts, and longevity as a top news story.

The Top Ten Weather Stories of 2020:

  1. Calgary's Billion-Dollar Hailer
  2. BC's September Skies: All Smoke, No Fire
  3. Fort McMurray's Flood of a Century
  4. Endless Hot Summer in the East
  5. St. John's Snowmageddon
  6. Record Hurricane Season and Canada Wasn't Spared
  7. The Year's Most Powerful Tornado
  8. Frigid Spring Helps Canadians Self-Isolate
  9. Fall in Canada – Winter in the West and Summer in the East
  10. August Long-Weekend Storms: East and West