This winter, snow accumulation has been dominated by persistent weather patterns with most of this years’ snowpack built up rapidly over a five to six-week period from early December to January.
According to the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Arctic air flowed across the province throughout February, with extremely cold temperatures and limited snow accumulation; this pattern continued into the beginning of March. Snowpack throughout the province remained relatively level through February. Most basins dropped by five to 15 per cent relative to normal compared to Feb. 1 due to the dry and cold conditions.
The Okanagan saw 81 per cent of normal and South Thompson saw 83 per cent of normal snowpack.
The Climate Prediction Centre (CPC) at the U.S. National Weather Service/NOAA has declared that El Niño conditions are present and is forecasting a high likelihood of El Niño continuing through spring 2019. Typically, El Niño is linked to warmer winters across British Columbia, with a trend towards lower than normal snowpack — warmer temperatures took place throughout the province in December and January but strong arctic airmass significantly influenced British Columbia in February and offset these typical El Niño impacts.
The impact of El Niño on winter snowpack in B.C. is highly variable and does not always mean lower snowpack (for example, 2006-07 had significant snowpack across the province). Seasonal weather forecasts from Environment and Climate Change Canada show an increased likelihood of below normal temperatures for most of the province over March to May.
By early March, nearly 80 per cent of the annual B.C. snowpack has typically accumulated. Currently, the snow accumulation ranges from well below normal to normal for March 1 across the province. However, seasonal snowpack can still change significantly with one to two more months of possible snow accumulation left in winter/spring 2019.
At this stage in the season, there is no elevated flood risk present in the current snowpack across the province. While snow is one significant aspect to seasonal flooding in B.C., weather during the freshet season also plays a key role, and flooding is possible in years with near-normal snowpack.
Seasonal volume runoff forecasts are near-normal for Okanagan Lake basins.
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