‘Extremely low’ snowpack on Vancouver Island may cause trouble this summer

BC River Forecast Centre

Snowpack levels across British Columbia are well below their seasonal norms, and that is especially true for Vancouver Island.

As of March 1, the province’s snowpack level is sitting at just 66 per cent of its seasonal norm, and on Vancouver Island the snowpack is less than half of what’s normal – at just 46 per cent of the seasonal average.

That’s actually up from Feb. 1, when Vancouver Island’s snowpack was sitting at just 30 per cent of the seasonal norm, according to David Campbell, head of the BC River Forecast Centre.

Vancouver Island is among four other regions in B.C. that currently have “extremely low” snowpacks, which is when a region has under 60 per cent of its seasonal snowpack average, as of March 1.

The other regions include the South Coast, Central Coast and Upper Fraser East.

SEE ALSO: ‘Hugely concerning’: Warm weather sets B.C. up for continued drought, says meteorologist

Campbell says the Island lost much of its snowpack in January, when “we experienced that warm atmospheric event.”

Much of that snowpack was then rebuilt just this past week. Campbell notes that Vancouver Island in particular is “much more variable” in terms of temperature and precipitation swings when compared to the rest of B.C.

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March 1 snowpack levels on Vancouver Island. (BC River Forecast Centre)

Spring flooding and summer drought

Because the average snowpack is low across the province, Campbell says flooding risks are less of concern this spring, but there is more of a risk for drought in the summer.

Current weather forecasts are predicting a warm spring, meaning the reduced snowpacks may also melt earlier than usual.

“That’s really going to have the biggest impact in the summer,” said Campbell at a news conference Friday.

“Once that snow is gone, if it melts early it’s going to be gone early, and its contribution to the continued flow in the summer is going to be diminished,” he said.

However, Campbell stresses that these are early predictions, and it will be important to see how the next four to six weeks go.

B.C.’s snowfall season tends to continue into mid-April before tapering off.

That means there’s one to two more months in the province’s regular snowfall season.

Campbell adds that rain also plays an important role in B.C.’s overall water levels – particularly on Vancouver Island, and that rainfall over the next few months could make a dent in reducing the Island’s drought risks.

“Things can still change a little bit, being this advance in the year, but we don’t expect wholesale changes to the snowpack,” he said.

(BC River Forecast Centre)

Adam ChanAdam Chan

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