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British Columbia’s wet, cold spring bodes well for Washington this year

A view from Seattle, May 3, 2020.
Tim Durkan
Tim Durkan Photography
A view from Seattle, May 3, 2020.

The curse of the wet weekend is making another appearance as June comes to an end. The month sometimes referred to as "Juneuary" in the Pacific Northwest has actually included quite a few lovely summer days this year, with temperatures hitting the 80s under bluebird skies. (Just not many on weekends.)

But our somewhat soggy spring this year in Washington has nothing on what folks north of us in British Columbia have been experiencing.

“There’s been a lot of flow off the Pacific Ocean,” says KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass.  “And we’ve been relatively wet during the late spring, but it’s been even more so in British Columbia – particularly southern British Columbia.”

Mass says it has not only been wetter than normal, the temperatures have been cooler than normal and snowfall has been coming down to much lower elevations. All of this adds up to very moist conditions throughout the province, including in forested areas that often ignite and can become major blazes starting around this time of year.

“And if you look at the official Canadian wildfire analysis, they show extremely low probabilities of wildfires during the next few weeks because things are so moist and cool,” he says.  

The extended forecast, going out two months, also indicates these wetter than normal conditions will continue.

Mass says this is good news for people concerned about summer air quality, especially in light of the huge wildfires in British Columbia and Washington in 2017 and 2018. The smoke was so pervasive, it extended all the way into Seattle, creating air pollution dubbed "worse than Beijing" on more than one occasion.

“Part of the problem was that British Columbia was much drier than normal those winters and late springs,” Mass says.  

He's not expecting a repeat. 

“It really doesn't look like that's going to happen this year," Mass says. "I think it's so moist now and the forecasts are so favorable that there's no reason to expect more fires than normal and smoke in southern British Columbia this year.”  

Or in Washington. Enjoy the drizzle.

You can listen above to hear the full discussion. 

The weekly KNKX feature "Weather with Cliff Mass" airs every Friday at 9 a.m. immediately following BirdNote, and repeats twice on Friday afternoons during All Things Considered. The feature is hosted by KNKX’s Environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp. Cliff Mass is a University of Washington Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and a renowned Seattle weather prognosticator.  You can also subscribe to a podcast of “Weather with Cliff Mass” shows on AppleSpotify and Google

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to