Okanagan residents experiencing record-breaking warm weather

Kelowna's outdoor public skating rink in Stuart Park resembled a reflecting pond Monday afternoon as the warm temperatures melted the ice, leaving approximately two inches of water covering the rink. The melting prompted the city to close the rink until the ice can be built back up.
— image credit: Alistair Waters/Capital News

Unusually balmy winter days are melting temperature records and at least one ice rink in the Okanagan.

"This is the warmest January day that we've had here in 20 years," said Doug Lundquist, meteorologist from Environment Canada.

At the weather station at UBC Okanagan, mercury neared 13 C Monday, which dwarfed the 2006 record temperature of 6.2 C.

Sunday, Jan. 12, the high was 8.1 C, which broke the record high of 6.1 C set in 1999.

The previous record for Jan. 11 was set in 2006 with temperatures peaking at 8.5 C, but that was broken Saturday with a 9.1 C high.

Kelowna's weather records only go back 20 years, but in Vernon there's 115 years of data to compare to, and temperature records were broken for two of the last three days.

"There are three things making it warm," said Lundquist.

"There's very little snow in Kelowna, there's warm air coming in from the Pacific, and west of Vancouver Island there's a huge source of water that's warm. "

The trifecta of conditions warming up the valley will eventually come to an end, as the fronts are going to go so far north that they'll die, said Lundquist.

But, there will be lingering effects as the weeks ahead will continue to offer up warmer temperatures.

While the weather may be melting usual winter woes, like snow removal, it is having a less than ideal effect on one of Kelowna's most beloved facilities, the Stuart Park ice-rink.

"Obviously we've had unseasonably warm weather," saidĀ  Steve Fagan, the city's supervisor for arenas and stadiums operations and maintenance.

"ThisĀ  weather is typical to late February, when we're pulling out the ice."

That said, it's not the end of lakefront skating opportunities.

"We're not taking out the ice," said Fagan. "Right now, obviously it's soft and wet in the day, but as the sun and temperature goes down in the evening, we will get it working again."

So, for the time being, Stuart Park will be the place for night skating.

"We knew coming into this season there would peaks and valleys in the season of really cold and really warm weather," he said, noting that city staff will adapt and keep the site open for its growing fan base.

"Based on reports from staff, the numbers are way up this year because of the skate rentals. It's in the third year, people know about it and they're telling their friends. It's very busy."

For those interested in skating, however, a precursory look at the city of Kelowna's website may come in handy.

If there's a yellow sign on the screen, that means it's closed.

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