The summer of 2017 on Eastern Vancouver Island has been very warm and dry, and quite long if reckoned by the temperature trends rather than the astronomical benchmarks found on the calendar.
The summer weather (daytime highs 20 C or higher most days) began on the Victoria Day weekend, a full month earlier than the summer solstice, and it looked like we might have one of those rare ‘endless summers’ this year that can last well into September and even into early October.
However, September has cooled off now and it looks like Saturday, the 16th was our last day of consistent summer weather.
Based on this, we can probably say summer began early this year but also ended a bit early compared to the fall equinox benchmark; early by about one week. I should mention at this point I don’t find the astronomical changes in season to be all that well correlated to the changes in the weather most of the time, but the fall equinox around Sept. 21 seems to match the seasonal change in the weather fairly closely most years.
By comparison, the winter, spring and summer weather tend to arrive a couple of weeks ahead of the astronomical or calendar dates most years. Then there’s that long transition between winter and spring that we usually get from late January to early March that I like to call ‘pre-spring.’
This fifth ‘season’ didn’t arrive until March this year because of all the snow we had this past February. However, with the very short wet spring that followed in April and ended during the first half of May, we ended up with this year’s early summer and early fall.
As for the so-called endless summer, it has until recently been a bit of a rarity despite the global warming that is going on all around us. We can thank the relatively cool Pacific Ocean for that. Mid-latitude coastal areas of the world will likely be the last regions of the world to experience the full temperature impact of global warming.
However, we are being warned by climatologists and oceanographers that we could be clobbered by other kinds of extreme weather, including major wind storms that could flood our houses, take down our rickety century-old overhead hydro power lines and our electricity-dependant traffic lights. It might finally be time to bury all our overhead lines and replace our energy-dependant traffic lights with more roundabouts that operate off the power grid.
Although the long hot summers are still not common on the Island, they appear to be occurring somewhat more frequently over time. The third longest summer of the 21st Century was in 2003. The main period of warm weather ran from May 23 to Oct. 2 of that year, a period of four months and nine days.
After that, we waited six years before we had another summer that lasted more than four months. The summer weather in 2009 lasted from May 22 until Sept. 26, a period of four months and four days, making that season the fourth longest summer of the 21st Century so far.
However, after that, it was only five years before our second longest summer. In 2014, the warm weather ran from May 12 to Sept. 24, a period of four months and 12 days.
Now here’s the kicker: it took only two years after that ‘endless summer’ of 2014 to experience our longest summer of all so far this century. Just last year, in 2016, the warm weather arrived at the very beginning of May, as many as seven weeks ahead of the calendar summer, and lasted until Sept. 15.
That was a record-breaking stretch of four months and 15 days, despite the fact the cooler fall weather intruded a few days before the start of the fall equinox.
Is this enough to declare a trend to longer, warmer summer weather on Vancouver Island? It might still be a bit early to say for sure, but if you like long warm summers that last more than four months some years, this might just be your century.
Chris Carss is a Chemainus resident and a long-time weather analyst.