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Trending up: West Kootenay snowpack percentages are rising while the provincial forecast plummets

This spring’s cool and wet weather has reversed forecasts of disaster and drought for the region on the snow front.

The West Kootenay regional snowpack has increased – according to June 1 numbers Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletin – to 79 percent, up from a worrying 66 percent of normal in May.

According to the bulletin – produced by the BC Rivers Forecast Center – the entire province is still unchanged and on the drier side of the ledger when it comes to the remaining snowpack contained in watersheds (57 per cent on average).

In the West Kootenay, snowpack has increased to the third-highest percentage of basins in the province, behind only the South Thompson region (87 percent) and Stikine (160 percent).

On June 15, provincial snowpack was extremely low, averaging 57 percent of normal in B.C. Last year the provincial average was 91 percent.

“So far this year, 31 percent of peak snow cover has melted, due to low-altitude melting in April and significant heat on May 9 and 12,” the report said. “Last year temperatures were much warmer and by then 43 percent of the snow cover had melted.”

On average, 17 percent of the seasonal snow cover melts on May 15. Last year, the provincial average was 29 percent of normal on June 1 because snowmelt rates were very rapid in May.

Despite most areas entering the snowmelt season with less snow than in 2023, lower melt rates at higher elevations this year have led to higher June 1 snow basin indexes (SBI) in most regions.

Still, lower than normal flood danger is expected to remain for most of the West Kootenay and Boundary region this season due to low snowpack, but localized flooding due to extreme rainfall over the next six weeks is still always possible.

“Low snowfall and seasonal runoff forecasts combined with warm seasonal weather forecasts and lingering impacts from ongoing drought create significantly increased drought risks for the coming spring and summer,” the report explains.

Rain and snow

Overall, May precipitation was lower than normal in the Kootenay region and most of the province.

The start of the snowmelt season is mixed across the province. At low to mid elevations, especially on plateaus in interior BC, early melting of a shallow snowpack has occurred and many of these areas are now snow-free.

“Higher mountain snowpack has experienced a slowdown in melting due to cooler temperatures in late April, and some areas have experienced additional late-season snow accumulation during recent unsettled weather periods,” the report explains.

Chance of weather

An El Niño advisory is still in effect, according to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.

El Niño is the warm phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), meaning conditions across BC are trending toward warmer winters, with below normal snowpacks and earlier snowmelt.

The CPC predicts an upcoming transition to ENSO-neutral conditions.

“A La Niña Watch remains in effect from the CPC, with an increasing likelihood of La Niña conditions developing in June-August (49 percent chance) and likely to continue and impact B.C. into the fall-winter 2024-25 (next year),” the report said. “La Niña winters are often relatively cool and wet, potentially delaying snowmelt if cooler temperatures persist.”

Seasonal weather forecasts from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) continue to indicate a moderate probability (40-95 per cent chance) of above-normal temperatures across BC during June to July.

Current projections for May through July indicate above-normal precipitation in parts of the Southern Interior and Kootenay.

Spring has begun

The International Kootenay Lake Board of Control (IKLBC) declared the “beginning of spring surge” on Kootenay Lake on April 16, the earliest in seven years, and two weeks earlier than 2023. As a result, spring has begun again. has started.

Despite low snowpack – currently 79 percent of normal in West Kootenay – FortisBC remains in compliance with the IJC Order of Approval for Kootenay Lake through the first few months of 2024 and is prepared for the onset of spring. ” says Martin Suchy, Canadian Secretary of the International Kootenay Lake Board of Control (IKLBC).

He said hydrological conditions in the Kootenay Lake basin in late winter and early spring are below average this year.

Suchy said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) reports similar rates across the region, at 82 percent of the 30-year record period that is normal in the Kootenai Basin.

Measuring tape

At the time of the declaration, the level of Kootenay Lake at Queen’s Bay was 1,739.29 feet (530.14 meters), according to figures released by the board of trustees.

“Kootenay Lake inflows were 22,800 cubic feet per second and are expected to continue increasing over the next month,” the IKLBC release said.

Kootenay Lake in Queen’s Bay reached its minimum daily average elevation of 1,739.22 feet (530.11 meters) for the year on April 13–14, 2024.