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An updated B.C. outlook

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Dayna Vettese
Meteorologist

Friday, February 7, 2014, 12:06 PM -

The cold continues in British Columbia. Cold temperature records have been broken for several days with Vancouver’s International Airport breaking a cold record Thursday morning with a low of -9.9°C (replacing the old record -7.8°C in 1948). In the interior, records from the early 1900's were event broken. Below is a graphic showing the temperature anomalies (how much above or below the actual temperature was from the climate average) for the first four days of February. We can see that, as experienced, western Canada is in the midst of a spell of below normal temperatures. We have had wind chill warnings for parts of the B.C. interior and arctic outflow warnings for parts of the B.C. coast.

February 1-4, 2014 temperature anomalies from 1981-2010 climate normals (from ESRL)

February 1-4, 2014 temperature anomalies from 1981-2010 climate normals (from ESRL)

So you know it has been cold, but what does that mean for snow? 

Well, there could be some snow ... but more on that in a moment. 

The pattern has been changing and evolving in a rapid manner across Canada with January having a pattern conducive to low pressure systems moving north into the northern B.C. and Yukon region then sliding south across the Prairies, circumventing the southern regions of the province. As February progresses, we continue in this pattern for the next couple of weeks conducive to cold air outbreaks across British Columbia. It doesn't look as though the cold weather will stick around for the next couple of weeks but certainly into the weekend.


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Thursday morning, Vancouver International Airport recorded wind chill values around the -15 mark. Though it’s not often we get such cold wind chills along the south coast of B.C., we have seen temperatures colder than this before. The coldest wind chill ever recorded at Vancouver airport was -28 on December 16, 1964. The day time high only reached about the freezing mark on Wednesday as well making this the coldest day since about December 10, 2013. On Thursday, temperatures are expected remain at or just below freezing in the area.

This pattern is also favourable for a type of jetstream that will steer low pressure systems toward the coast. Several models are indicating below normal temperatures will stick around in B.C. until the beginning of next week before some of these systems will help to bring in some milder air. 

Canadian forecast model's solution for temperature anomalies (above or below normal) from Saturday, February 8 through Thursday, February 13, 2014.

Canadian forecast model's solution for temperature anomalies (above or below normal) from Saturday, February 8 through Thursday, February 13, 2014.

NEXT PAGE: WHEN WILL POTENTIAL SNOW HIT?

As mentioned in a previous article posted on Wednesday, several forecast models are indicating the potential for some snow for British Columbia for the holiday Monday which just so happens to be the Family Day weekend. 

Models are in agreement that a low pressure system will makes its way along the B.C. coast to end the weekend and start next week. During this time, temperatures will begin cold enough at first to see some snowfall accumulation even with the potential for snow in the lower elevations and metro Vancouver area. At this point, nothing is set in stone but it is certainly something to keep an eye on over the weekend. The finer details of the system such as snowfall totals, temperatures and precipitation types will be nailed down over the next couple of days as newer information becomes available.

At this point, a heavier wet snow along the coast mixed with periods of rain could be the outcome with heavier snow occurring the higher up you travel in elevation. Right now it looks like we could start off as snow in the metro area then change over to rain. Areas like Burnaby and points north and east look like they could receive heavy snow. It’s a system to keep an eye on so as you’re making your Family Day weekend plans, keep checking back for updates.

What has the winter been like so far?

It’s has been an active winter across the country whether you’ve experienced ice storms, wild temperature swings, avalanches, fog-mageddon or blizzards. British Columbia has had its fair share of changeable weather this winter. December temperatures averaged out to below normal for portions of the south coast of British Columbia and northern sections.


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In Vancouver, the average daytime high in December is about 6.3°C and December 2013 averaged out to be 4.9°C; just over 1°C below normal. January on average was the same degrees below normal as December. That being said, the December cold was likely more noticeable as we had more consecutive below normal days in Vancouver in December than in January. We also had quite a few more above normal days in Vancouver in January than in December.

December temperature anomalies from 1981-2010 climate normals (from ESRL)

December temperature anomalies from 1981-2010 climate normals (from ESRL)

January temperature anomalies from 1981-2010 climate normals (from ESRL)

January temperature anomalies from 1981-2010 climate normals (from ESRL)

NEXT PAGE: WHAT ABOUT PRECIPITATION?

Precipitation-wise, it really depended where you were in British Columbia whether or not you had a wet December or January.

The south coast had a very dry December followed by a somewhat dry January. On average, December at Vancouver airport records roughly 162 mm of precipitation (rain and snow combined). This December, the airport only picked up about 77 mm; about half the normal amount.

January was a bit wetter in Vancouver recording about 142 mm of precipitation with the normal amount being about 168 mm (80% of normal).

If you look at central and northern coastal sections of B.C., though, December was very wet. Prince Rupert picked up 370 mm of precipitation in December with the climate normal being about 294 mm. January was on the drier side with 106 mm recorded compared to the normal 276 mm. January did end off on a foggy note for many southern B.C. residents.

December precipitation anomalies from 1981-2010 climate normals (from ESRL)

December precipitation anomalies from 1981-2010 climate normals (from ESRL)

January precipitation anomalies from 1981-2010 climate normals (from ESRL)

January precipitation anomalies from 1981-2010 climate normals (from ESRL)

British Columbia facing a frigid February
Frigid week looms for British Columbia
Live on location: My first day in Vancouver

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