Column: Warming up to the new normal

With province-wide heat on the heels of a warm winter driven by a strong El Nino event, there has been a rapid melt of the snowpack

Last month went down in the record books as the hottest April in Chilliwack since records began.

“Re-occurring upper level high pressure ridges, resembling a summer time weather pattern, produced a total of thirteen high temperature records,” said Roger Pannett, volunteer weather observer for Environment Canada.

“Eleven of those high temperature records occurred soon after mid-month, during an unusual April provincial heat wave which produced over 100 high temperature records in B,C. With mean temperatures at 13.93°C, an amazing 4.43°C above normal, it was the hottest April since records commenced in 1895. The previous hottest April was in 1934 when mean temperatures were at 13.2°C. For the 4th consecutive month and the 3rd consecutive April, temperatures were well in excess of the standard deviation of + or – 1.1°C.”

With that province-wide heat on the heels of a warmer than normal winter driven by a strong El Nino event, there has been a significant and rapid melt of the provincial snowpack. According to the River Forecast Centre, on May l the snowpack ranged from 12 per cent to 100 per cent of normal with a provincial average of 53 per cent of normal snowpack.

However, according to the Centre’s graphs, the Chilliwack River is fairing a little better at 83 per cent of normal while the Skagit watershed is at just 23 per cent of normal and the Lower Fraser overall is at 72 per cent.

The May 1 provincial snowpack average was a decline of 38 per cent from a month ago when, on April 1 the snowpack was 91 per cent. The May l average sets a new record low (measured since 1980) and 13 per cent below the previous all-time low of 66 per cent in 1980. Of the 183 snow survey measurements taken May 1, 33 stations showed new record lows.

Today, low and mid-elevation snow is pretty much all gone for all areas of the province with snow remaining only at high elevations.

The low snow pack ties into the extraordinary lack of rain this year. Pannett said that the precipitation for the first four months of the year in Chilliwack was just 575.6 mm on 72 days compared to the average of 760.8mm on 68 days, representing 75.66 per cent of normal. Rainfall totals for April were over 50 per cent below normal.

All this could add up to low river flows in the critical summer months when salmon are returning to spawning streams.

This trend in heat and dryness isn’t confined to British Columbia. The Prairie Climate Centre forecasts that, if business continues as usual, southern Manitoba could see sustained temperatures similar to parts of Texas in the future.

The prairies are likened to the canary in the coalmine in that they are already known for extremes of heat and cold. However, they are warming faster than the global average and, by 2050, Winnipeg could be experiencing close to 50 days of over 30oC temperatures, four times the current average of 11 days.  This will profoundly change how people live, work and grow food on the prairies. Food and livestock feed production may be extended further north and the growing season may be longer.

For this year, though, the Climate Prediction Center at the U.S. National Weather Service/NOAA is expecting El Nino conditions to neutralize by early summer with a potential for its cold counterpart, La Nina, to ramp up in the fall

In the meantime, according to Pannett, Chilliwack’s historical precipitation records show that a dry April often precedes a hot, dry summer. That could lead to drought conditions like last year during the peak of the growing season.

It looks like this is the new normal.

Just Posted

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack woman’s 100-km birthday marathon to benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

RCMP investigating June 15, 2021 crash. (Black Press file)
Chilliwack RCMP say crash into median led to impaired driver investigation

Chrysler 300 driver allegedly collided with tree on Spadina median in June 15 incident

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Abbotsford council has given permission for Chilliwack to use the JAMES wastewater treatment plant for the disposal of trucked liquid waste until the end of September.
Chilliwack gets exemption to Abbotsford bylaw prohibiting liquid waste from other cities

Process in place until September while new facility under construction in Chilliwack

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

A search is underway for a 75-year-old fisherman who went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search continues for angler missing between Port Angeles and Victoria

Canadian, U.S. Coast Guard searching for 75-year-old man reported missing Thursday evening

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Bella Bella is on B.C.’s Central Coast, accessible only by air and ocean. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
B.C. provides $22 million for Heiltsuk development on Central Coast

Elders care home project, tourism, lumber mill supported

Most Read