California ultimately stole a lot of B.C.’s snowfall this season. Instead of targeting B.C., an active jet stream that featured 11 atmospheric rivers swung across the U.S. state.
When you reassess the position of ridges and troughs, the dividing line between warmer and cooler air, the perfect recipe blossomed over California.
As of March 18, Whistler-Blackcomb has accumulated more than 700 cm of snowfall this winter season. That sounds like a lot, but it will fall short of the 10+ metre average the resort is known for.
It’s not all bad news for B.C., as we had very few high freezing-level days so all the precipitation tended to fall as snow. As B.C. has dealt with a persistently drier northwest flow with dry Arctic outflow at times, the moist, subtropical jet was aimed squarely at California.
Normally this would have sent freezing levels spiking, but cold air from the Arctic settled over the state. A trough sat over Central California for most of 2023, providing the necessary colder air to deliver snowfall by the metre across higher terrain.
Eleven atmospheric rivers later, a snow-monitoring station near Lake Tahoe has tacked on more than 1,700 cm of snowfall, and counting. Some snow basins are teetering above 270 per cent of normal snowfall.
What a difference a few months makes, as shown by Oroville reservoir.
Is the all-time snowfall in jeopardy?
Perhaps. It will come down to the wire to see if the University of California Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Laboratory can accumulate more than 2,062 cm -- the infamous record from the 1951-52 snow season.
The station will likely pass Mount Washington’s all-time snowfall of 1,840 cm in the 2010-2011 La Niña-driven year.
That’s nowhere near the unfathomable 2,895 cm that accumulated on Mount Baker in 1998-99, a confirmed world record. Guess what? Another strong La Niña was the culprit.