Tuesday, May 10, 2016

'Triple Whammy' in Fort McMurray

David Phillips, climatologist at Environment Canada discovered a disturbing trend: winters are dramatically drier and warmer. The past few months, meanwhile, pulverized winter records. The conditions in northern Alberta created the perfect environment for a massive conflagration.

The first factor was lack of precipitation. The winter months from October to April were the driest on record, recording just 61 mm of melted snow and rain. The normal is more than double that, at 132 mm, while the previous record low was 84 mm.

The second factor was temperature. The seven months since October 2015 were the second warmest on record, with an average temperature of –4.5 degrees Celsius. The normal is –7.9 degrees Celsius.

Then came the third factor: the “spring dip.” It’s the time between the disappearance of snow on the ground and when the trees gain their leaves. The spring dip is when the moisture content in trees is at its lowest point. There was no snow since February, letting the forest floor dry out March and April. The stage was set for fire.

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