Environment Canada: Sunnier skies and a snowy ski season ahead

Environment Canada gives the forecast for Fernie and the Elk Valley.

Summer’s cool start is about to warm up. This is according to Matt MacDonald, a meteorologist with Environment Canada.

Traditionally, the daytime high for July is 23.8 degrees Celsius, but June of 2016 saw an average drop of almost two degrees, reaching just 21.9 degrees Celsius; MacDonald believes that is about to change.

“It’s been pretty unsettled lately, but it will be taking a change for the better. We are finally going to get a ridge of high pressure that we have all been waiting and looking for here at the storm centre,” he said. “We have yet to see a single day above 30 this month and usually we see three days above 30.”

The ridge of high pressure that MacDonald spoke of is expected to stay around for the coming week or longer. The long-term seasonal forecast is indicating warmer than normal conditions through to September.

Despite the cloudy skies and rainy days, July is behind on its average rainfall, according to MacDonald.

“We have not seen a ton of rain, but it has rained most days. It hasn’t been heavy but it has rained 15 out of the 19 [first] days in July. Typically July only sees 11 days of rain. We are two thirds through the month and have seen more days of rain than normal already,” he said. “If we look at the actual amount, so far this month we have picked up 26 millimetres and the normal for the month is 46.8. We still have 10 days to go, but it is a tale of two stories – it has been drier in the amount of rain, but has rained more.”

The 2015/16 winter was one of the warmest winters on record, largely owing to the very strong El Niño that was occurring. The El Niño has affected the summer weather trends.

“Often times we talk about La Niña and El Niño. This winter was quite mild, there was good snow in the mountains but the snowline was pretty high because of those mild temperatures. For many spots across B.C. this winter was two or three degrees warmer than normal,” he said. “Since March, the El Niño began to weaken and now we are at neutral conditions. El Niño refers to how warm the ocean is in the equatorial Pacific, and for the past two years it has been warmer than normal.”

Snow lovers have something to look forward to this winter. MacDonald believes that the two-year-long El Niño will be coming to an end this fall.

“Finally, for the first time since August of 2014, we are returning to neutral conditions, so the ocean is finally back to near normal temperatures. All the international climate models are suggesting that the cooling is going to continue,” he said. “We are going to be entering La Niña come October. The last La Niña we had was the winter of 2011/ 2012.”

MacDonald said that typically La Niña’s are good news for most of B.C., or at least from the perspective of skiers and snow sport lovers because they usually bring colder and snowier winters than normal.

“Weather is a fascinating thing, there is so much variability. I like to remind people that El Niño or La Niña, it doesn’t guarantee anything; it stacks the cards in favour of. There have been La Niña years that have been drier than normal for the Fernie area, but most La Niña’s have been snowier than normal,” he said.

MacDonald wants to remind the Elk Valley that it is still lightning season, and that lightning is the leading cause of weather related death in Canada.

“More Canadians die from lightning than any other weather related event,” he said. “There are about 10 Canadians that die every year from lightning strikes. Our safety message is when thunder roars, go indoors.”