Winter has arrived in the Okanagan and according to experts, it’s not going away any time soon.
In mid-November, Environment Canada projected this winter in the region to be “colder than usual.”
It’s a prediction that’s proven to be right so far, as Christmas inches closer and closer.
And with temperatures reaching lows of -16 C with the wind-chill during the day in some parts of the Okanagan, extreme winter warnings have been issued by Environment Canada.
But the temperatures recorded over the last week come as no surprise to meteorologist Brian Proctor, even though the numbers have shattered the region’s all-time averages.
“I’m really not (surprised), it honestly depends on what’s happening a lot in the atmosphere,” he said. “When we saw the flow in November in the southwest and west with the atmospheric rivers coming in, we saw all that warm air piling into the southern interior.”
Proctor continued to note that those western flows tend to lead to conditions that support heavy snowfall across the southern part of the province, as well as the cooler temperatures the region is currently experiencing.
The consistent below-zero temperatures in the Okanagan are here to stay — at least for the duration of the “first half of winter”, according to Proctor.
“Typically we could be seeing some changes around February but at this point in time, it does look like it’s going to be colder than usual for the first half of winter, so that’s the end of December and into January.”
On Dec. 20 of last year, Kelowna had recorded a temperature of over 10 C. Fast forward one year and the city is bordering on what would be considered extreme cold.
“What’s happening now is that we’re getting this pattern that’s really bringing that cold down from the Northwest Territories and Alaska and down to B.C.,” Proctor said.
Extreme winter updates are issued on a case-by-case basis depending on where in the country warnings are issued. What people in a certain region are accustomed to experiencing during the winter plays a role in whether Environment Canada will call the temperatures “extreme.”
“We put -10 C in the Vancouver or Victoria area as something that’s considered absolutely extreme,” Proctor explained. “But when you look at what we could typically put up for areas like the Okanagan Valley, it would be much different than that.”
The coldest Christmas day in Penticton history was in 1948 when the city recorded a temperature of -17 C.
Still, anything hovering around -15 C in the Okanagan is something that Proctor would consider as significant.