After a unusually hot and dry start to the fall in B.C.’s Interior, parts of the Okanagan are getting their first taste of winter with snow falling at higher elevations.
It seems this early season snowfall might be an indication of the winter weather Okanagan residents can expect.
Senior climatologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, David Phillips, said La Nina conditions are expected this winter and La Nina years typically bring colder and snowier weather to the Okanagan.
However, Phillips cautions that La Nina doesn’t guarantee colder, wetter weather. It only makes it more likely.
“I would bet a few loonies on the fact that this winter might be a little colder, a little snowier than normal,” said Phillips.
“The Americans’…forecast is calling for exactly that. They believe La Nina will be a force and they think it will be a cooler and a wetter than normal winter coming up for the Okanagan. Our provisional models seem to suggest it may be a little slow in coming. We may see the first half of winter being maybe a little bit warmer than normal but the second half being a little colder.”
The expectation of an above-average snowfall this winter has SilverStar Mountain Resort excited.
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Doug Chimuk, the ski hill’s marketing manager, says while it is not unusual to have snow on the mountain this time of year, the resort has received more snow than it would normally forecast for late October.
The ski resort’s village is currently blanketed in snow, and Chimuk is leaving the door open to the possibility of an early opening.
“We are definitely tracking for opening for nordic for November 25 and on track for an alpine opening of Dec. 2. We are 60 cm at the top right now so you never know we will see what happens,” said Chimuk.
It won’t just be ski hills watching the weather and hoping for precipitation. The unusually hot and dry start to the fall in the Okanagan means the wildfire danger rating is still elevated.
That could have impacts for next year’s wildfire season.
Fire information officer Forrest Tower said while the drier conditions haven’t drastically affected wildfire suppression efforts this October, the conditions are “concerning going into next year if we don’t see quite a bit of precipitation this fall.”
Tower said in past major fire years like 2017, 2018 and 2021, areas that were in drought going into winter were more susceptible to wildfire starts and can be more susceptible to wildfire starts earlier in June because they dry out that much quicker.
Tower notes that there is still time for precipitation to occur to reduce the drought codes and improve the wildfire risk going into next spring.