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B.C.’s snowpack is 39% below normal levels

Snow levels for Feb. 1 are up, but River Forecast Centre warns of elevated spring drought risks

B.C.’s snowpack is 39 per cent below normal levels, and the province says that could lead to further drought issues in the spring and summer.

The current conditions are creating “significantly elevated drought hazards for this upcoming spring and summer,” according to the River Forecast Centre in its latest snow survey and water supply bulletin for snow conditions as of Feb. 1. The bulletin was issued Thursday (Feb. 8).

Drought hazards are especially pronounced in areas with low snowpack, including Vancouver Island, the South Coast and the Lower Fraser.

“Extremely low seasonal runoff forecasts for the Okanagan, Kalamalka-Wood, Nicola Lake and Nicola River are also indicative of elevated seasonal drought hazards,” it reads.

The report points out that two to three months still remain in the snow season, but its tone is not optimistic.

“While conditions may change slightly over this period, current trends in low snowpack are expected to persist,” it reads.

While the latest figures mark an improvement from the first bulletin of 2024, January’s snow event was not enough to create seasonal conditions, never mind make up the gap from the previous survey. The Jan. 1 figures showed snowpack levels below 44 per cent.

RELATED: B.C.’s snow-pack 44% below normal on heels of worst drought in recent memory

All basins (minus the Northwest with no data available) are below norms with the Stikine (minus 10 per cent) closest to the norm. The Okanagan (minus 14 per cent) and the South Thompson (minus 19 per cent) also recorded snowpacks above 80 per cent of normal.

The gaps in the snowpack are especially pronounced in B.C.’s most populated parts. Vancouver Island is 70 below normal, while the South Coast is down 59 per cent from normal.

The Skagit basin at the border between the Fraser Valley and the Similkameen is at 100 per cent below normal. Overall, nine snow stations measured all-time lows for their period of record.

A historical look back underscores the widespread lack of snow. Last year, on Feb. 1, the average of all snow stations in British Columbia was 79 per cent of normal, compared to 61 per cent on Feb. 1, 2024.

“Snow basin indices are much lower this year compared to 2023 due to very dry and warm conditions through the snow accumulation season,” it reads.

Looking ahead, the report speaks of “very high likelihood (60 to 100 per cent chance)” of above normal temperatures across all of B.C. over the February through April period to prevailing climatic conditions, including the current El Niño phenomenon.

Speaking Thursday morning at an unrelated event, Premier David Eby said he is really worried about the summer ahead.

“The weather that we are having is so unpredictable and so extreme right now, that the economic…and human impacts in our province, feel so much more acute,” he said. “We are the early warning sign for the rest of Canada with what is coming with climate change.”

He added preparations for the summer continue. They include implementing recommendations emerging from the wildfire task force appointed last year, he added. B.C. will also look to the federal government for continued support around military resources, he said, adding that B.C. will also do what it can to support other jurisdictions.

“We know they help us when we are in our forest fire season as well and we do what we can to help each other out in this remarkable time we live in,” he said.