Snow near the Coquihalla summit. (Contributed)

Snow near the Coquihalla summit. (Contributed)

Okanagan sees highest January snowpack levels in eight years

The Okanagan snow basin is up 132 per cent of normal levels

Although it may have seemed like a warm winter, it has been anything but a dry one.

The snowpack in the mountains of the Okanagan and Similkameen are both higher than last year’s levels according to the Ministry of Environment Snow Survey Program’s Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletin.

The Okanagan snow basin is sitting with the highest snow pack levels in the province, with 132 per cent of the normal snow value as of Jan. 1, 2021 — up from the 91 per cent of normal levels seen with 2020’s snowpack.

The Similkameen snow basin has also grown compared to 2020, going from 75 per cent of the normal value to 97 per cent.

READ MORE: Snow levels above yearly average at Summerland sites

The normal snowpack is based on the last 20 years of snowfall and accumulation, which shifted to 1991-2020 from 1981-2010 for this most recent report.

The early snow and cold weather in October helped get the snowpack levels off to an early start, before slowing down to normal levels through November and December.

By early January, nearly half of the annual B.C. snow pack has typically accumulated, with three months left for more snow to gather.

READ MORE: Snowfall in Okanagan breaks records dated back to 1899

This year, the weather conditions for snow have been favourable due to the La Nina wind and temperature patterns, which bring colder, wetter air across B.C. when they occur.

Forecasts from the Climate Prediction Centre are estimating a 95 per cent chance that La Nina will continue through to March, and then a 50 per cent chance of lasting through April and May.

However, unlike normal La Nina conditions, the warmer than normal conditions are expected to continue through March, alongside the normal higher levels of precipitation.

Historically, when La Nina has lasted into spring, it has come with increased risk of freshet flooding.

In 2018, snowpack levels at this time of year in the Similkameen snow basin were at 141 per cent of the normal levels, and that year saw significant flooding and evacuation alerts issued.

The Okanagan’s snowpack levels are the highest they have been in the last eight years.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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