Early disappearance of snowpacks ramp up Southern Interior drought fears - InfoNews

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Early disappearance of snowpacks ramp up Southern Interior drought fears

Firefighters were training on the Penticton River channel in late May, 2019 in low flow conditions. B.C. River Forecast Centre says area streamflow conditions are more reminiscent of early to mid-July than early June, as warm weather and low precipitation has resulted in an earlier than normal melt of the Thompson and Okanagan snowpacks.
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June 07, 2019 - 3:36 PM

The snowpacks in the Southern Interior are melting at near record rates, raising concerns about possible drought this summer.

A warm and relatively dry May has resulted in rapid melting in the region’s upper level snowpack, with snow basins ranging from one per cent of normal in the Similkameen, to 60 per cent in the North Thompson, according to the June 1 snow survey and water supply bulletin from the B.C. River Forecast Centre.

The Okanagan is currently at only four per cent of normal, while the South Thompson is at 45 per cent. No data is available for the Nicola region.

River Forecast Centre section head Dave Campbell says the numbers are close to records, and similar to 2015 and 2016 when snowpack levels exhibited even lower percentages.

“The small numbers are due to the early melt. When it’s a few weeks early like this, it really drives those low numbers,” he says.

The snowpack melt is one to three weeks ahead of normal for most areas, with snowpack levels less than 50 per cent across most of the province.

Campbell says the implications of the disappearing snowpacks going into summer is an early end to their influence on stream flows, which are expected to decline much earlier in the Thompson and Okanagan.

“That exposes rivers to low flow and vulnerability to drought later in the year,” he says.

In the Southern Interior, the combination of a low seasonal snowpack and dry spring weather, has resulted in streamflow conditions more reminiscent of early to mid-July rather than early June.

The River Forecast Centre reports some streamflows are approaching or exceeding record lows for this time of year.

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