Despite the grey and rainy days of BC in the wintertime, the snowpack on mountain ranges throughout the province checked in below average on February 1.
The latest snow survey and water supply bulletin from the province, released February 8, reports that the snowpack is 21% below normal provincewide. Just three basins – the Lower Thompson, Boundary and Okanagan – are firmly above average for the date, at 115% or more of normal.
The remaining 25 are at or below normal, ranging from the Upper Fraser West basin at 100% of normal to the Skagit at 50% of normal.
Snowpack levels declined from a month earlier, when they averaged 82% of normal. Typically, two-thirds of the season’s snowfall has occurred by the beginning of February.
However, things could change in the next two months.
“Several low pressure systems have affected coastal B.C. during the first week of February, bringing moderate to heavy precipitation,” the report says, with monitoring stations indicating some snow accumulation.
La Niña conditions also hold the promise of late-season snowfall in some regions. Weather forecasts, for example, indicate an increased likelihood of higher than normal precipitation for the northeastern portions of the province from February through April. These regions entered the winter dry, so any accumulation would be welcome news in advance of the growing season.
However, the BC River Forecast Centre expressed concern about the outlook for the coming season.
“There are early concerns for drought extending into the spring and summer with below normal snow throughout many regions,” it says.
The provincial drought rating has not been updated since December 1, but at the time the Peace region remained at the most severe Level 5 drought rating while four regions, including the Skagit where the snowpack is exceptionally low, were at Level 4.
It’s not just farmers who are being affected by the low snowpack. A near-historic low snowpack in the North Thompson basin, which sits at 63% of normal, prompted the Clearwater Ski Hill to close for the season earlier this month.