West Kootenay snowpack at about normal, forecasters say

The people in charge of forecasting spring river flooding say snowpack levels in the West Kootenay are about normal.

The River Forecast Centre’s regular snow survey released its January snowpack report earlier this month.

It says province-wide, snow basin levels as of January 1 were anywhere from 93% of normal (in the Middle Fraser basin) to 132% in the Okanagan, the highest level. The average overall was 108%.

The forecasters make their estimates using readings from more than 140 automatic and manual stations across the province.

West Koots ‘near normal’

The West Kootenay’s measuring stations showed snow numbers about normal – anywhere from 90 to 110%.

But there may be more on the way – all because of ocean temperatures in the South Pacific.

Forecasts from the Climate Prediction Centre are indicating a high likelihood of continued La Niña conditions through to March, with neutral conditions expected afterward. “La Niña” is a term for the way water temperatures change in waters off South America, which can affect weather patterns across the hemisphere.

“Historically, when winter La Niña conditions exist in British Columbia, the April 1 snow pack is often above normal, particularly for the South Coast and Southern Interior,” says the report. “Also, if La Niña conditions persist into the spring, it can lead to late-season snow accumulation and delayed snowmelt, which increases the risk for freshet flooding.”

Complicating the picture, however, is that seasonal weather forecasts are also indicating an increased likelihood of warmer-than-normal temperatures from January through March for the entire province, which is opposite to traditional La Niña conditions.

“There is an increased likelihood of higher-than-normal precipitation for the southern half of province for January through March,” the report authors say.

By early January, nearly half of the annual BC snow pack has typically accumulated. However, with three or more months left for high-country snowfall, “seasonal snow packs can still change significantly”.

The next report is due out in early February.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice