Autumn drought kills thousands of salmon as berries boom

Autumn drought kills thousands of salmon as berries boom

As communities across British Columbia see everything from water restrictions to record low water levels, scientists say the scenes from the province fit the bill of climate change.

“This is definitely a warm and dry late autumn,” said Sean Fleming, an adjunct UBC professor of the Department of Earth Ocean-Atmosphere Sciences, who specializes in water resource management.

Tens of thousands of dead, wild salmon scatter the Neekas Creek bed near the community of Bella Bella, a horrific snapshot of the severe drought that has gripped B.C. for more than a month.

River levels are hitting historic lows, with little to no rainfall over the past five weeks, and the dry weather is only forecast to continue.

“In the near-term, we don’t see too much in particularly for Vancouver Island or the southwest of bc. this week is remaining warm, dry, temperatures above normal,” Alyssa Charbonneau, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, told CHEK News Tuesday.

On south Vancouver Island, crops that typically would be finished are continuing to produce like never before.

“We’re still harvesting even our last strawberries and raspberries, it’s crazy!” said Dan Ponchet, owner of Dan’s Farm and Country Market in Central Saanich. “We’ve never had really berries go into October, they start to get mildew and rot, while this year they’ve been hanging in there pretty good.”

After a long wet spring, this bounty is now working to farmers’ benefit.

But this dry extreme isn’t to be taken lightly, with scientists saying this late autumn drought fits the characterization of climate change for our region.

“The northwest southwest British Columbia gets a drought season that’s typically through maybe July or so to mid-September every year. One of the expectations is that will get longer and longer under climate change. Conversely when the storms hit they will be a bit more severe than they have been historically,” said Fleming.

Last year’s atmospheric river caused unprecedented flooding across the province may be a far cry from the tinder-dry coast we see now. But Fleming says storm season typically hits in November and could still very much blow in.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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