Snowpacks building slowly this year in Thompson, Okanagan

In spite of a late start, the snowpack for the southern part of B.C. is around near normal levels as of Jan. 1, 2019.

Mountain snowpacks took their time establishing themselves this year, but are now more or less at average levels.

The River Forecast Centre released its first snow survey of 2019 on Jan. 8, and it appears as though snowpack levels in the province are typical for this time of year.

Much of this year’s snowpack has developed only in the past four weeks as variable weather across the province included higher than normal temperatures in November and December, with a series of Pacific storms hitting the southern half of the province in mid-December. That caused a rapid rise in the snowpack at higher elevations.

Low to mid elevation snowpacks have been adversely affected by higher than normal temperatures.

The snowpacks for the Thompson, Okanagan and Similkameen regions are as follows, as of Jan.1:

  • North Thompson, 109 per cent of normal
  • South Thompson, 99 per cent of normal
  • Okanagan, 94 per cent of normal
  • Similkameen, 93 per cent of normal

A developing El Niño weather system is expected to take place through the winter and into spring, which generally means lower than normal snowpacks, but there has been a high degree of variability in snowpack levels during recent past El Niño events, the report says.

River Forecast Centre's Dave Campbell says the main thing about the January 1 data is the snow pack is neither high or low, although there is still time for that to change.

"We've noticed a dramatic change just in the last four weeks in terms of the amount of snow," he said, adding last year at this time the Okanagan snow pack was quite a bit higher than this year's.

Generally half the annual B.C. snowpack has accumulated by mid-January, but with three or more months of snow accumulation left, seasonal snowpacks can change significantly.

The next report is scheduled for release on Feb. 8.


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