Warm winter could spell problem for BC come spring
Thursday, March 5, 2015, 2:07 PM - After the winter season that many Canadians have experienced this year, the idea of a warm, wet winter sounds like a welcome alternative.
If you happen to live in British Columbia, chances are you haven't had much to complain about in the weather department -- unless you're a ski enthusiast.
Record high temperatures, a lack of snow on ski hills and heavy precipitation made for unusual winter weather, even for Canada's warmest province.
In an official release, BC Hydro meteorologist Tim Ashman points to the climate change as a factor in the 'weird' weather in BC this season -- and its affects on the province's snowpacks.
"All of our storm cycles have been warm," says Ashman. "And that's had a significant effect on our snowpacks. We've had to deal with water runoff instead of storage into the snowpack."
BC Hydro uses hydroelectric generation for about 95 per cent of its electricity, and relies on water stored in snowpacks to restore its reservoirs during the winter months.
However, significant runoff has forced the company to spill water at several dams, including the Campbell River System on Vancouver Island.
Lower elevations in southwestern BC and on Vancouver Island are currently seeing below average amounts in snowpacks in their river basins, while higher elevations that saw heavy snow are dealing with deeper than normal snowpacks.
As the spring rolls around, the impacts of the winter weather will mean different things for parts of the province.
Alpine snowpacks at higher elevations will produce sufficient streamflows to supply a vast majority of BC's hydro. But lower-level snowpacks and diminished reservoir levels could mean water restrictions in the southwest.
While snowpacks play a major role in the maintenance of reservoir levels, precipitation during the spring months will be just as important.
The chance of more snow from late winter/early spring storms, combined with heavy spring rainfall could help raise reservoir levels later in the year.
Despite a newsworthy winter on the weather front, changing patterns in seasonal conditions could have a further draw on the province's power needs.
"Changes in the amount and timing of seasonal water supply are likely one of the more perceptible ways we will see the effects of climate change in BC." says Ashman.
Source: BC Hydro
March is Spring Outlook month at The Weather Network and meteorologists forecast a slow start to the season as the harsh winter experienced across much of the country hangs on. The complete national outlook - plus regional breakdowns in temperature and precipitation - can be found on the 2015 Outlook homepage.
WATCH BELOW: What can BC expect from spring in 2015?