El Niño brings above-normal temperatures to Cranbrook

The sun is shining and the thermometer shows a balmy four degrees on this Friday, Jan. 4 afternoon here in Cranbrook and Environment Canada meteorologist Bobby Sekhon says these sorts of conditions are likely to continue for the next few months.

December was warmer than normal in Cranbrook by about three degrees above the overall monthly average, however, it only ranked as the 19th warmest December on record, going back to 1901.

In terms of precipitation it was considered statistically normal, with the city receiving about 80 per cent of the precipitation we normal get. We got the exact average amount of rain, six millimetres, but the snowfall was less. About nine centimetres less snow fell than the monthly average and so the overall precipitation received ended up being six millimetres less in the month; 27 total millimetres compared to the 33 that’s normal.

“With the weak El Niño that we’re expecting this year, it’s usually milder temperature wise for most parts of B.C.,” said Sekhon. “And this winter so far we’ve been seeing more systems from the southwest which bring warmer air, and also we haven’t had that real cold arctic air entrench into the B.C. valleys for extended periods of time.

“We’ve had a couple of short blasts of cool air come in, however past winters we’ve seen at least a few days if not several days of quite cold temperatures entrenched into the valleys and that can usually make for a cooler air mass.”

The upcoming forecast is trending towards more of the same for the months of January, February and March. In fact most of B.C. is expected to get warmer than normal temperatures, though how much warmer is difficult to say.

“How much precipitation compared to normal is also not as well correlated, but what we do have some confidence in is the temperature forecast which should be above normal for the course of the three months coming up here,” Sehkon said. “And that kind of jives with the El Nińo forecast as well, so we have some decent confidence in that.”

Though the general forecast is warmer than normal, Sehkon says that does not discount any event-by-event storms that could come, potentially bringing heavy snowfall, or arctic air.

“Even though we’ve been warmer than normal and less snow, just continue to keep an eye on the forecast. It’s still winter in British Columbia and we can still get into some pretty good snow events and arctic outbreaks and these type of things can still happen in an El Niño winter and so just keep an eye on the forecast and check your travel conditions if you’re travelling around B.C., but overall on average we’re expecting a warmer than normal winter here.”

There are two systems coming up for next week. A quick blast of snow will come around Sunday or Monday, though that should only bring up to five centimetres of snow to Cranbrook. Then there is another system coming on Tuesday bringing the next round of precipitation.

Sehkon says it does help to have more precipitation over the course of the winter moving into spring, as having the soil saturated with moisture is one preventative factor with regards to spring and summer wildfires. However, that is just one of many factors. If May is as dry as it was in 2018, that is another aspect to consider.

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