British Columbians feel effect of climate crisis as Lytton shatters record for all-time high temperature in Canada

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      The impact of the climate crisis has hit home for British Columbians.

      Not only did the community of Lytton shatter Canada's all-time record temperature, but there are also worries about flooding and air quality as a result of an unprecedented heat wave.

      Lytton reached 46.6 C on Sunday (June 27), exceeding the previous record of 45 C set on July 5, 1937, in Midale and Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan.

      It's not unusual for Lytton to be Canada's hot spot, but the mercury never reaches this level.

      But it's not just Lytton that's experiencing sweltering heat. Cache Creek reached 42.5 C and Lillooet peaked at a record 43.1 C.

      Abbotsford and other parts of the Fraser Valley are also experiencing blistering heat.

      This morning, Environment Canada issued a warning that daytime highs could reach 38 to 44 C in Metro Vancouver's northeast sector, including Coquitlam and Maple Ridge, and in the southeast part of the region, including Surrey and Langley.

      "An exceptionally strong ridge of high pressure over British Columbia has resulted in record breaking temperatures," the national weather forecaster stated. "The duration of this heat wave is concerning as there is little relief at night with elevated overnight temperatures. This record-breaking heat event will increase the potential for heat-related illnesses."

      CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe said on the radio this morning that the heat is so high in the upper atmosphere that the top of B.C. mountains are experiencing temperatures in the 20s or even 30s. Normally, they remain at subzero temperatures year around.

      That's elevating the risk of flooding as a result of a rapid snowmelt. Rising river levels have already led to an evacuation order in the Pemberton Valley.

      According to Wagstaffe, what's happening is consistent with what was expected with climate change, which is caused by higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.

      These emissions trap heat. However, Wagstaffe said that this was not expected to occur to this degree so quickly in B.C.

      The evacuation order affects several homes along the Sea to Sky Highway, Clover Road, Pemberton Meadows, and Ryan Creek Road.

      Meanwhile, Metro Vancouver has maintained an air quality advisory for the eastern part of Metro Vancouver and the central Fraser Valley.

      This is as a result of high concentrations of smog, a.k.a. ground-level ozone, which is created when sunlight interacts with vehicle exhaust, which includes nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds from solvents and other sources.

      The ozone plume flows from Metro Vancouver into the Fraser Valley with the air currents, most notably when it's extremely hot. 

      Metro Vancouver has advised residents to avoid strenuous outdoor activites during the mid-afternoon to early evening when ground-level ozone levels are at their highest.

      "Exposure is particularly a concern for people with underlying conditions such as lung disease, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) including bronchitis and emphysema, as well as asthma, and/or diabetes; individuals with respiratory infections such as COVID-19; pregnant women and infants; children; outdoor workers (e.g. construction and agricultural workers); and older adults. Individuals who are socially marginalized may also be at elevated risk (e.g. people who are experiencing homelessness or are underhoused)," the regional government states on its website.

      The sky-high temperatures have also elevated the risk of wildfires, which could make breathing even more difficult in communities that could become smothered in smoke.