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Record-breaking year in Edmonton for smoke: Environment Canada

The sky in Edmonton was an orange-brown hue Wednesday morning, due to thick smoke that had drifted east from the B.C. wildfires. August 15, 2018. Courtesy: Cathy Walsh

If you think Edmonton has been hit with more smoke this year than ever before, you’re right.

Environment Canada released statistics that show the city has experienced a longer period of smoke this summer than in any previous year.

“Every year it really varies quite a lot,” Environment Canada meteorologist Alysa Pederson said on Tuesday. “Whether it’s a zero year, when we have no smoke, or whether the fires are significant in western Canada and we do get a lot more days like this year.

“This year, there’s a big cluster of them actually, further north than they were last year, closer to Prince George and west of Prince George. So with westerly winds, that smoke is moving into more of central and southern Alberta than it did last year.”

READ MORE: ‘Lovely morning in the apocalypse’: Edmonton wakes up to orange, smoky sky

The numbers suggest there have been 168 hours of smoke in Alberta’s capital between May and September, which surpassed the previous high of 110 hours in 1961.

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READ MORE: Wildfire smoke turns day into night in northern Alberta: ‘I’ve never seen smoke this thick’

The third-highest number recorded was in 1994 at 66 hours of smoke.

The average number of hours of smoke was 14 in Edmonton between 1980 and 2010, according to Environment Canada.

Environment Canada said the hours noted are when the observation at the Edmonton International Airport showed six statute miles or less in smoke.

While Edmonton has experienced some relief from the smoke created by the B.C. wildfires during the past couple of days, that’s not expected to last. Environment Canada suggests the air quality health index (AQHI) will rise to 10 or high risk in the capital region by Wednesday.

“With the forest fires still going pretty strong, it just takes a westerly wind or a change in weather pattern to bring smoke back into Alberta,” Pederson explained. “So at this point we’re kind of expecting later this week that we might be seeing a little bit more smoke.”

READ MORE: Environment Canada says 2018 the smokiest summer on record in Calgary

The Environment Canada statistics show Calgary has experienced the most smoke hours in Alberta so far this year at 316 as of noon on Monday. It surpassed the previous high of 315 hours set just a year earlier.

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“The smoke has move through Edmonton and moved south into the Calgary region and then it stuck around a little bit longer. So they’ve had more days of smoke as well down there than we have up here,” Pederson said.

Calgary’s third-smokiest year was in 2015, when the city recorded 155 hours.

The research suggests many communities in Alberta have experienced record-breaking smoke hours this summer, including Grande Prairie (136) and Red Deer (228).

Smoke records from Environment Canada Aug. 20, 2018. Environment Canada