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It will cool off this weekend, but heat wave will quickly return

'Normally in the whole year, you would get seven of these days' of weather 30C or warmer, says climatologist; We've already had 16

Air conditioners are working full-time and green lawns are taking on a tough brown hue while pool levels are noticeably dropping during this persistent warm spell.

And although Saturday promises some respite from the heat and sun, the forecast suggests it will be followed by more extreme heat.

At Barrie Hill Farms, the prolonged warmth is good news for owner Morris Gervais. While the soybean crop looks a little haggard and heat struck, drip irrigation under every row of berries has allowed them to flourish. 

Add in all that warmth and sun and the result is a sweeter, fuller berry, he said.

“The hot, dry weather is not as challenging to manage as the pandemic,” said Gervais, whose pick-your-own farm and market has become a popular destination which, this year, has required extra scrutiny and adaptation to ensure everyone remains safe as the world struggles to control COVID-19.

So far this summer, Barrie has had 16 days of weather 30C or warmer and five days when the temperature reached 29C.

“Normally in the whole year, you would get seven of these days,” said David Phillips, senior climatologist for Environment Canada. “We still have all of July, August, September.”

By this time last year there were only five of those days.

This year’s cooler May saw three days above 30C, another five in June and eight so far this month. And even though weather in Barrie isn’t matching Ottawa’s persistent heat wave, and there are no daily temperature records being set, this is undoubtedly one long stretch of hot weather.

Thankfully, that’s been offset by cooler nights. Phillips said Barrie hasn’t experienced the tropical highs that Toronto has, with temperatures here dropping below 20C at night.

The lack of precipitation has also kept the humidex factor down to the 38C range during the day, not the 44C experienced in other communities.

There’s been some “very localized” rain but July has been essentially free of precipitation, when typically we receive about 20 mm. In June we had 56 mm, when 90 mm is the norm.

The two months, combined, has resulted in about 50 per cent of the amount of rain we would normally expect. Phillips pointed out that more rain is required during hot spells and, as a result, we’re now experiencing a drought.

“The atmosphere is sucking up every single bead of moisture it can find,” he said.

The lack of precipitation and accompanying cloud formation means the heat isn’t being trapped in during the evening but rather radiating out to space, creating a sort of weather-free zone and allowing for that temperature to drop at night.

The normally chilly water of Kempenfelt Bay is also seeing above-normal temperatures as a result, hitting 25C, about 3C higher than normal.

“It’s probably the warmest now, at this time of July, than it has been in 10 years,” he said. “It’s like a hot tub swimming in Kempenfelt Bay.”

Saturday will bring a dramatic change when temperatures will drop below seasonal values, to about 23C with the possibility of showers. But things will quickly return to seasonal, with 27C on Sunday, and 28C on Monday, although there’s a good chance of rain two out of the next four days.

“It won’t be the rescue rains that we need,” said Phillips. “It won’t correct the drought that we’re in.”

Then the heat will return.

Phillips describes this past month as the opening act, this weekend as the intermission with the curtains about to lift on the main show with more 30C days, leading to the dog days of summer and carrying on right through to Labour Day.

Models are showing a continuation of dry weather, he adds.

At Barrie Hill Farms, Gervais is getting ready for blueberry picking next week. Again, irrigation is making the crop a good one in a season which has attracted an increase in sales.

But social distancing requirements forced by the pandemic means the development of a new gathering area because wagon rides out to the berry fields are still not being offered just yet.

“So far, so good,” said an exhausted Gervais.