B.C. desperately thirsty for rain after a long summer dry spell

Low water levels are shown at Lynn Creek in North Vancouver, B.C., on July 11, 2023. (Justine Boulin/CBC - image credit)
Low water levels are shown at Lynn Creek in North Vancouver, B.C., on July 11, 2023. (Justine Boulin/CBC - image credit)

With heat waves toppling temperature records in many parts of B.C. this summer during extended drought conditions, meteorologists say the province is in need of "sustained" rain this fall.

A trough of low pressure brought showers to parts of coastal B.C. this week. But for places further east, it continues to be dry, according to Alyssa Charbonneau, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

"Everybody is looking to see when we might take a turn to wetter conditions," she said. "What we need is not just a single storm but a sustained turn to overall wetter conditions."

While there have been scattered showers in the Interior recently, bringing some reprieve from extreme drought conditions, it has been fairly light.

After a dry summer leading to extremely low river levels and tinder dry forests, Charbonneau said a few millimetres of rain isn't going to help. Typically, the end of summer and early part of September are fairly dry.

Current forecasts show a ridge of high pressure rebuilding in the middle of this week, stepping back to sunny warm conditions.

On the weekend and in the coming weeks, though, there are chances of rain returning to many regions.

It's not clear, however, how much rain the province is going to see in the weeks ahead.

"We can't really forecast much further than a week and are not really able to tell how the rest of October or November will look like," added Charbonneau.

CBC's science and climate specialist, Darius Mahdavi, notes that while it's hard to say what's in store for fall, the province is in a precarious position.

"2022's fall drought was called 'historic,' but we're starting from a much worse place this year. The drought last year peaked in mid to late October," he said.

"If we don't start to see some very significant rainfall, and soon, we'll be in trouble."

Longer nights bring cooler temperatures

Meteorologist Charbonneau said the temperature will start dipping as nights get longer. Some B.C. ski hills already experienced a dusting of snow this week.

"We are not switching to cold and snow quite yet, but we might see overnight lows of as much as –1 in some places in the north," she said.

She said El Niño is expected to affect B.C. this winter and will likely mean milder weather.

"We will feel the effects of El Niño late fall and winter, so that's right after Christmas, Charbonneau said.

While precipitation levels are hard to predict for the coming months, Environment Canada is seeing some hints of a warmer than normal fall this year.

"Confidence in the long range forecast for the fall season is quite low." said Charbonneau. "So we really have to see how it plays out."