Heating up: warm weather keeps snow base repressed in region
Warm winter weather isn’t exclusive to the West Kootenay.
One of the warmest periods on record for part of January has not only touched the region, but it was also the warmest January on record across the world, according to Reuters.
The warm winter in the West Kootenay has also crimped Whitewater Ski Resort’s snow season, with a snow base almost three feet below its summit average of 90 inches (www.onthesnow.com) at 56 inches (143 centimetres). The daily snow report is taken at the Summit weather plot at 1,950 metres.
Currently, Whitewater has all of its runs (97) open and all five of its lifts operating, but 18 ski areas (78 per cent) out of 23 ski resorts across B.C. are reporting open for skiing and snowboarding, with 67 per cent of lifts open and 68 per cent of trails.
With 2023 already one of the world’s hottest on record — according to records going back to 1850 — and human-caused climate change and El Niño, the weather pattern that warms the surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean is pushing temperatures higher.
Near Nelson a Provincial snow measuring station recorded its lowest total on record in January, with the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship’s Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletin noting the snowpack was 25 per cent in January, the lowest in 63 years.
Across the West Kootenay, the snowpack is 57 per cent of normal, just above the average for the province (56 per cent), but is considered extremely low. Last year, the provincial average was 82 per cent on Jan. 1.
There is an El Niño advisory in effect for 2023-24, according to the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) at the U.S. National Weather Service.
El Niño is the warm phase of the El Niño-southern oscillation (ENSO), and it is expected to continue through the North American winter.
“This is the first El Niño winter season since 2018-19,” the bulletin noted. “Typically, El Niño is linked to warmer winters across British Columbia. During El Niño, snow packs tend to be lower than normal; however, there has been a large range of variability in snow pack in B.C. during El Niño winters in the past.”
There is a greater likelihood of above normal temperatures for the West Kootenay and B.C. until March, according to seasonal weather forecasts. However, precipitation is not showing any dominant trend of above normal or below normal precipitation.