Flood risks from melting snow pack ‘enough to be concerned about’

CALGARY- While a large snow pack in the mountains is great for spring skiers, it’s leading to concerns about heightened flood risks.

Dr. John Pomeroy and his team of researchers have been closely monitoring the snow pack in Kananaskis, with the help of 30 high tech weather stations. The snow pack is 25 per cent higher than normal, carrying 1000 mm of water in some parts.

“Normally we expect this to start melting by May long weekend, but it’s not happening,” Pomeroy explains.

“It’s a bit abnormal to have this much snow down low in mid-May—in fact it’s exceptional.”

Conditions were considered normal just a few weeks ago, but the recent heavy snowfall in the mountains drastically changed things.

“It’s three times what fell in the mountains here during the rain storm that caused the June flood. So if it melts slowly, everything’s great, but when it melts quickly there are problems and that can cause flooding.”

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Up to 60 mm of rain is predicted in some spots over the weekend, which could lead to a rapid melt.

“60 millimetres of rain is not going to cause flooding, but if we add 100 millimetres of water with it than that can cause high flows,” Pomeroy says. “We are still well below last year, but it’s enough to be concerned about.”

He adds that mild, overcast days would be ideal to promote a slow melt, as well as an end to the snowfall.

The University of Saskatchewan research team is also studying the effects of clear cutting on flood risks, and providing recommendations for mitigation.

VIDEO GALLERY: Snow pack retrospective.

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