Don’t believe the groundhog.
Not if you’re in B.C., anyway.
While it seems the hubbub around the groundhog may seem like just a quaint tradition, environment Canada meteorologist Lisa Coldwells says there’s a dash of science in the furry creature’s prognostication, but it doesn’t apply this side of the Rockies.
“The things with groundhog day is it works on the prairies and out east, but we are so mountainous and close the Pacific ocean it doesn’t,” she said.
“The idea is that the groundhog comes out of his borough and sees his shadow, and that means six more weeks of winter.”
If he can see his shadow, it’s indicative of the fact there’s a large Arctic High pressure area of cold air sitting above, and that’s why it makes it sunny.
In Eastern Canada and the prairies that amounts to six more weeks of winter.
“In B.C. if we ever see the ridge of high pressure or the cold arctic air come down it creates valley cloud,” she said.
The cloud would block the sun, the shadow wouldn’t appear and the groundhog’s work would be for naught.
Luckily, science has advanced and Coldwells— like other meteorologists—has a few other tools in her belt.
“What we want to link to is El Nino,” she said. “That’s the river of warm ocean water along the equator… what we were expecting to see, is in late January and February, the effects of El Nino making it to western Canada.”
It’s been a slightly warmer than normal winter already.
The overall average temperature for January has rested at -0.1 C, versus the -1.1C normally.
It’s also been a bit wetter than normal in the Okanagan, with 41 mm of precipitation this January versus the yearly norm of 39 mm.
River forecasters have also released snow pillow data, and for this region it’s above normal for this time of year.
What we are expecting for February, said Coldwells, is more of the same.
The mean temperature for February is expected to be 1 to 2 C above normal and precipitation is expected to be en par with yearly averages.