Current snow packs at 80 per cent considered normal

While precipitation is down in many regions of the province this winter, it’s close to normal in the Lakes District and Bulkley Valley.

While precipitation is down in many regions of the province this winter, it’s close to normal in the Lakes District and Bulkley Valley – and not likely cause for concern.

That’s the word from the Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations’ River Forecast Centre, the provincial agency responsible for snow pack and stream flow analysis, flood forecasting, and low stream flow monitoring.

According to the centre’s February snow survey and water supply bulletin, snow packs in the Nechako and Skeena-Nass basins were down 20 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively, as of Feb. 1. Yet this decrease isn’t causing BC’s professional weather watchers to lose any sleep.

“Current snow pack levels of 80 per cent and greater in the Nechako and Skeena-Nass are within the range that we would consider ‘normal’,” David Campbell, head of the River Forecast Centre, said last week. “Further, snow pack is one piece of the overall water picture in the region. Spring and summer weather will be large drivers in determining whether or not there are significant water shortage issues in the region.”

Campbell said snow surveys suggest this region can expect slightly below normal volumes of run-off, but don’t necessarily mean the risk of wildfires will be higher in 2014.

“We would not expect impacts to local ecosystems with the current snow packs unless we get significantly or extreme dry and/or hot weather in the summer,” he stressed. “From a weather perspective, snow packs do not play a huge role in whether or not wildfires are more likely. Spring and summer are the main drivers in determining wildfire risk.”

January was a particularly warm, dry month for many areas of the province. Five B.C. regions – including the Central Interior – received between 40 and 70 per cent less precipitation than normal. Temperatures during the same period were significantly higher than average in many parts of Northern BC – as much as 80 C warmer in some areas.

January’s unseasonably warm, dry weather was the result of persistent high pressure weather systems. While it’s difficult to predict what the coming months will bring, Campbell said that seasonal forecasts from Environment Canada suggest there is “increased likelihood of normal to below normal temperatures, and no increased likelihood of either wet or dry (weather) over the next three months.”