This summer of 2016 is the greenest Okanagan summer I have ever seen … and I’ve lived in the Okanagan, or visited it in the summer, for most of my 61 years. The weather has been pleasant, but it hasn’t had the usual Okanagan heat. Oh yes, it did start off with a hot spell, mid to high 30s Celcius, in early May, and folks were predicting a long dry summer, drought, and probably wildfires.
But ever since then, we’ve had mostly pleasant mid-20s days, with summer showers often enough to keep the hillsides green–hillsides that are normally brown by early June. Now we are into August and they are just starting to brown. Every so often we have a few days in the low 30s, but even then, they’ve often been accompanied by thunderstorms with downpours just strong enough to prevent any major fires from lightning strikes. Most summers here in Penticton we’re under strict water regulations by early July, but this summer we’ve hardly needed to water our lawns and gardens.
What’s really amazing is the changes in the natural vegetation. Trees and bushes have sprung up. creating green oases where normally one night find thin, scraggly vegetation. The oxbows are coated in thick algae in any places–so thick that the usual ducks, turtles, and other wildlife have moved away. Even in more open water in the oxbows, there is far more floating vegetation than usual, and the bulrushes are tall and thick. The branches of berry bushes are hanging low, with heavy and very early crops such as I’ve not seen here before. The deer and bears are going to be plenty fat before winter comes.Even tree trunks have unusual growth of moss.
Gardens are amazing, too. Everywhere you look, there are amazing tall, thick-stemmed sunflowers. The fruit crops gave been thick and heavy-laden–and far earlier than usual. Despite very little watering, compared to normal summers, strawberries and vegetables are amazing. Along fence lines, flowers and crops are escaping their bounds.
What do you think? Is this just an unusual summer, or is this part of climate change? The thing is, the past few summers have been drier and drier, and the Okanagan has experienced some pretty devastating wildfires … yet now we’ve had a summer that, while pleasant, has definitely not reflected our semi-desert reputation!