Rubbers instead of snowboots, umbrellas instead of toques are what the average Kelowna resident is digging out this week, as temperatures hit abnormal highs.
Frosty doesn’t stand a chance of continuing to stand up at the temperatures reached in Kelowna this week, of 6 C at the airport and as high as 9 C elsewhere in the city. New record high temperatures were reached on the coast, but here, they would have to beat out the 1980 December 28 high of 10.3 C and they didn’t.
Thawing overnight temperatures are a rarity at the end of December, but they’re especially surprising in a La Nina year—and there are a couple of overnight thaws forecast this week.
Predictions were for a colder-than-normal, wetter winter because this is a La Nina year, when a cooler-than-normal Pacific Ocean stream from South America impacts coastal waters off B.C. and weather throughout the province.
However, Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist did a little research and discovered in the last four decades, during La Nina winters, Okanagan Valley weather has actually been warmer than normal, but springs have been cooler and later than usual.
The one exception was in 1964 when December’s temperature was lower than normal, while in 1955 and 1988, February’s were lower.
However, in 1999 and 1973, December was warmer, in 1998, January was warmer and in 1973 February was warmer than normal.
It’s a different story in the spring. Between March and June, inclusive, generally temperatures were cooler than normal; with April of 1988 the only exception.
This year, Lundquist forecasts warmer than normal temperatures through the first week of January, which fits in with the research he conducted on archived data, since this is a La Nina year.
Looking back over the past year, which was also a La Nina year, he calls it “the year of delayed seasons.”
Winter’s weather last year was not colder than normal, but the spring was substantially delayed, with markedly lower temperatures in April than usual.
In fact, he notes, cooler than usual weather continued through July, with summer weather finally arriving in August and continuing through September—saving crops which depended on warm weather.
Tree fruits and grapes all matured weeks later than usual, but the unseasonal heat in September allowed them to ripen before cold weather hit.
November marked the start of wintery weather, but it was short-lived, and December has been mild and extremely dry.
In fact, normally there 36 centimetres of snow in December, and there’s been only about seven centimetres this year.
Temperatures were also slightly above normal, and over the past 365 days, temperatures have averaged out to normal, reports Lundquist.
A dry fall is also evident in the level of Okanagan Lake, which is 15 centimetres below normal for this time of year.
Fellow meteorologist David Jones of Environment Canada, says the forecast is for continued warmer than normal temperatures for the next couple of days, but Sunday it’s expected to chill down a bit. Daytime temperatures, though, are expected to continue above freezing.
Normals for this time of year are lows of -5 C and highs of -1 C.