Weather in Vancouver: Map shows drastic change in air quality

Vancouver currently has the fourth worst air quality in the world. Red areas are those with “high risk” warnings.

An air quality map shows the entire Lower Mainland has varying degrees of poor air quality on Thursday (October 20) – and the air isn’t expected to improve until Friday.

Metro Vancouver is continuing an air quality advisory for the Lower Mainland that was first issued Oct. 14 due to smoke from wildfires burning in British Columbia and south of the border.

The advisory was issued due to high concentrations of fine particulate matter in the atmosphere caused by wildfires southeast of Chilliwack (near Chilliwack Lake), near Hope, near Harrison Lake and in Washington.

However, air quality has deteriorated since the weekend. As early as Saturday afternoon, for example, the map showed that many parts of the region had a “low health risk”.

As of noon Thursday, the air in the Lower Mainland poses at least a “moderate” to “very high” health risk. Smoke concentrations can vary widely across the region as winds and temperatures change and wildfire behavior changes.

Fortunately, the poor air quality is expected to improve on Friday as the forecast for Metro Vancouver includes periods of rain.

Environment Canada meteorologist Alyssa Charbonneau said Vancouver is awesome that the inhabitants will have the impression of having thrown away “from summer to mid-autumn.” In fact, some of BC’s highways are expected to experience snowfall over the weekend.

“Now is the time to look around and clean your drains and gutters. If you’re traveling, take a look at the forecast on these highways because it could be a big surprise,” she noted.

Photo via Vancouver Metro

Photo via Vancouver Metro

Metro Vancouver weather forecast includes air quality advisory

The smoke left Vancouver with one of the worst tunes in the world. On October 17, it was estimated that breathing the air of Vancouver for a day was similar to smoking five cigarettes.

Thursday at noon, Vancouver had the fourth worst air quality of any city in the world (165 on the US Air Quality Index).

Fine particles, also called PM2.5, refers to airborne solid or liquid droplets with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less. PM2.5 can easily get inside due to its small size. You should refrain from any outdoor activity during the air quality advisory, especially if breathing is uncomfortable.

“Exposure to PM2.5 is of particular concern for people with underlying conditions such as lung disease, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and/or diabetes; people with respiratory infections; pregnant women and infants; children; older adults; and outdoor workers (eg, construction and agricultural workers). Socially marginalized people may also be at high risk (for example, people who are homeless or poorly housed),” according to Metro Vancouver.

poor air quality
Photo via Brendan Kergin/Vancouver is awesome

If you are affected by smoke: keep windows closed, use a portable HEPA air purifier or visit a public building with air filtration.

If you experience symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing, seek prompt medical attention. Call 911 in an emergency.

With files by Brendan Kergin.

Dale D. Schrum