March bucked its reputation as a wetter, cooler month this year by recording the lowest amount of precipitation to fall in the area since the Beatles were topping the pop charts.
The West Kootenay received less than one-quarter of the normal amount of precipitation last month. That’s lower than the last previous record, set in 1969. Just 13.2 mm of rain fell this March, compared to 62.9 mm normally. In March 1969, about 20 mm of precipitation fell.
The area also saw roughly 50% more dry days than usual (when less than 0.2 mm of precipitation was recorded) with only nine days of measurable precipitation.
“One factor that contributed to drier than average weather was that many of the Pacific frontal systems that pushed inland over southern BC were driving into (or through) a ridge of high pressure,” says Southeast Fire Centre weather forecaster Jesse Ellis. “Some of the energy that could have gone towards uplift and precipitation would have been 'absorbed' by the area of high pressure in place over the area.”
It was also an unusual month in that there was no measurable snowfall in the valley bottoms, though the month wasn’t totally snow-free: non-accumulating wet snow was mixed in with cold rain for a brief period on March 24, in lower altitudes.
Ellis, however, cautions over putting too much stock in the snowfall records, saying this time of year can see large variations in the amount of snow that falls from year to year, skewing averages.
It was a touch warmer than normal in the area as well, with average temperatures 0.7 degrees above normal.
The warmer, dry March doesn’t necessarily herald a nasty fire season, however, says Ellis.
“It’s really difficult to make any predictions about that,” he says, noting there are two distinct spikes in the fire season in the region: one after the first snowmelt, before green-up, and the second in the heat of the summer. “We can say a dry March will certainly lead to drier conditions now, but for the next spike in fire activity later this summer, well, there’s a lot of spring rain to go through.”
John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice