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Big blast of rain and snow aimed squarely at parched California

Wednesday, January 27th 2021, 4:01 pm - A stream of moisture that would normally be soaking B.C. is aimed instead at drought-stricken California.

British Columbia is shivering this week beneath Arctic high pressure, which serves as a barrier against low-pressure systems laden with Pacific moisture.

That moisture has to go somewhere, and this week, it's been sliding southward toward California, where it will serve mostly as a blessing for a parched state already struggling with dry conditions conducive to an active wildfire season.

The atmospheric river is now funnelling the bulk of the moisture well into central California, into one of the most prominent mountain chains in North America, the Sierra Nevada.


At the higher elevations, that will translate into some prodigious snowfall. Truckee, California, for example, along the I-80, is a popular town for skiers, but have faced an abnormally dry month, way down from the 118 cm January snow average. This week, the same area is on track to see persistent snow, 200-300 cm, or half of its entire seasonal average. At the alpine levels, some 7 METRES of snow could fall.

That will have benefits to the state long after the winter. Runoff from mountain snowpacks fills reservoirs during the spring, aiding cities and farmers and making for more moist landscapes, a bulwark against wildfires.

From the lower elevations to the coasts, it's not snow, but torrential rains, that people in the state should look forward to, with hundreds of millimetres ahead – another serious dent in California's prolonged dry conditions.


For a more detailed look, watch Kevin MacKay's in-depth analysis in the video above.

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