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Snowpack below normal across B.C.; well below in Northwest

Snow basin indices for April 1 range from a low of 47 per cent of normal in the Northwest to a high of 94 per cent in the Upper Fraser West with the average of all snow measurements across the province calculated to be 79 per cent of normal.

A well-below normal snowpack (<60 per cent of normal) is present in the Stikine, Northwest and Skagit. A below normal snowpack (60-80 per cent of normal) exists in the Liard, Skeena-Nass, Nechako, Central Coast, South Coast, Lower Fraser, Vancouver Island, Similkameen, Nicola, Okanagan, South Thompson, Boundary and East Kootenay.

The rest of the province has slightly below normal to normal snowpack (80-95 per cent of normal). There are no regions in the province with normal or above normal snowpacks.

The April 1 snow basin index for the entire Fraser River is 80 per cent of normal. Snow accumulation has been dominated by persistent weather patterns so far this season. Most of this year’s snowpack built up rapidly over a five to six-week period during early December to early-January.

Weather through February was dominated by Arctic air across the province, with extremely cold temperatures and limited snow accumulation. This pattern has continued into the beginning of March.

Extremely dry weather through March led to very little snow accumulation through the month. In low and mid-elevations (<1500m), hot weather led to snowpack ripening and early season snowmelt. Most basins dropped by five to 15 per cent relative to normal compared to March 1 due to dry conditions (and limited accumulation), and in some sites early snowmelt.

Data from 148 manual snow courses and 79 automated snow weather stations around the province (collected by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy Snow Survey Program, BC Hydro and partners), and climate data from Environment and Climate Change Canada and the provincial Climate Related Monitoring Program were used to form the basis of the report.

Weather

Following an extremely cold February, temperatures were mixed across British Columbia in March. Cooler temperatures dominated the first half or more of the month in most areas.

A warm spell towards the end of March brought record or near-record high seasonal temperatures, particularly in southern B.C. Despite this warm spell, overall monthly temperatures were near-normal to below normal (+0.5 to -3˚C) through most of the southern two-thirds of the province. In the far north, temperatures were well above normal, with Fort Nelson experiencing the warmest March on record (March temperature anomaly of nearly 6˚C above normal).

March was extremely dry across most of the province; it was among the driest March on record for areas in the south-west and north-east. Observed precipitation ranged from five per cent to 70 per cent of normal, with most areas in the province receiving less than 25mm of precipitation through the month.