February and Winter 2017 Summary – Snow and Cold — But nowhere close to coldest and low snowpack.

So ya, February happened.  It snowed… a lot..

Has it really been that snowy? Has it really been that cold? Here’s the long awaited, much anticipated, never underestimated, and finally-not-late (oh that didn’t rhyme-idated), February, and Winter 2017 Summary and Outlook!

February felt cold.  The Winter felt cold.  But, here’s the surprise, it is nothing we all haven’t felt before.  It was just so different from our most recent, and unusually warm, winters, that people really noticed.  So how cold was it in February?

In the City we averaged below freezing, -0.6ºC, for our lows and 6.0ºC for our highs for an overall average of 2.2ºC.  At the Airport (so a little further in the Valley) it was quite a bit cooler at -2.8 ºC for the lows, 5.5º C for the highs and 1.3ºC overall.

That’s all well and good, but how does that really compare to other years?  Well part of the reason I’ve been late this month is because I’ve been working away on my giant spreadsheet (download it if you dare) that compiles all of the temperature and rainfall data from every station in the Valley since 1900.

Here are the coldest average daily temperatures (maximum, minimum and overall) February’s measured at the Airport since 1995.

As you can see, 2017 was the 2nd coldest for minimum and overall temperature (-2.83).  But it was actually just 4th in lowest high temperatures.  So we have had similarly cold Februaries in the past.

Over the past 100 years of record keeping it’s no contest.  Before 1950, it was much colder… as much as two degrees overall.  Here is the same top-5 table from the historic Beaver Creek and City of Port Alberni stations which ran from the 1900s/10s to the 1950s. (click for larger)

The coldest February recorded in the Alberni Valley (at Beaver Creek) was in 1929.  The average daily minimum temperature (remember this is for the averaged over the whole 28 days!) was -6.8ºC!  BRRRRRRR.

Now if you compare the Alberniweather and other City stations average in February of 2.2ºC to the Somass River station which ran from 1970 to 1995 and was the last station actually near the City.  The Somass Stations lowest average was 0.2ºC in 1989! That’s 2 full degrees colder than we were this year in the City!  So no… it really wasn’t that cold.

Now the snow was definitely unusual, especially for recent times.  February is usually a cool and clear month after a dreary January.  Unfortunately, we don’t really have any recent snowfall data.  Environment Canada just installed a Snow On Ground measuring device at the Airport this December… the first time since 1995.

Here is the February picture from Weatherstats.ca. We had near or over 20cm of snow on the ground for 2 straight weeks!

The last time there was an actual recording like that is from 1986 at the Somass River station.

I can’t remember any time between then and now when we experience the same kind of snowfall.  Note that 1986 is #3 in the coldest years for the Somass river station at 2.1ºC.  So a good analogue to this year! (but still colder!)

So what about the Winter?  You may have heard that this was a pretty cold one, at least in Nanaimo.  The story in Port Alberni is a little different of course and it is much like it is with February.

For the Airpot, this was only the 2nd or 3rd coldest since 1995.  It was colder in 2009 and in 1999.  This winter (Dec/Jan/Feb) would not even rank in the top 10 all time coldest winters since 1900.

It is interesting to note on the bottom right though… I included the precipitation.  Notice this was the 5th lowest amount of precipitation (rain and snow) recorded at the Airport.  It is about 40mm off of the least amount of rain recorded over the winter.  The average is closer to 300mm for winter.

So what about compared to the Somass River station and the City stations? This winter was the 2nd coldest at Alberniweather after 2008 but would have only ranked #4  at Somass whose top coldest was 1972 at just 0.27ºC!

Lots more information including El Niño, Snowpack and other stuff after the stats below!

Most Notable Event of February 2017

February 4 snowfall of 37 cm and February 9 snowfall of 34 cm!


Monthly Timelapse Video

You can check out the videos at:


Daily records set this month at the Airport* since 1995 and compared to other stations** for “All Time” since 1900.

One new ALL TIME precipitation record, three new Airport rain records and five high temperature records.

*May have used Backup Data source at Environment Canada WeatherStats.ca

**Short Term, since 1995, Airport Records are compared to the 30+ year weather stations of record since 1900 (1895 for rain) at Beaver Creek, Port Alberni “City” and Robertson Creek.  Note that records pre 1950 may be more likely to over-estimate high temperatures.

February 2017  Minimum, Mean, and High Average Temp, Total Precipitation and Highest Wind

See January’s and last February’s summary.

Alberniweather-0.6º C, 2.2º C, 6.2º C174.2 mm
High Wind: SSE 61.2kph on the 15th
Alberni Elem. School : -0.8º C, 2.1º C, 6.3° C, 203.2 mm
High Wind: SSE 35kph on the 15th
Maquinna Elem. School: NA, NA, NA, 237.0 mm
High Wind: E 37kph on the 15th
Nick’s Stati
on (Maquinna area): -0.6º C, 2.2º C5.0° C135.2 mm
High Wind: SSW 62.9kph on the 15th
Neptune Canada Station-0.3º C, 2.3º C, 6.4° C, NA
High Wind: 9kph multiple days.
Overall City Average: -0.6º C, 2.2º C, 6.0º C 187.4 mm

Environment Canada Airport* : -2.8º C, 1.3º C5.5° C, 230.6 mm
High Wind: NNE 48kph on the 1st

Normal 1981-2010 (Rbrstn Creek)-0.6º C 3.0º C 6.0° C 339.5 mm

*Used Backup Data source at Environment Canada WeatherStats.ca

Differences from Normal at Robertson Creek

0.0° C, -0.8º C, -0.6º C, -52.2 mm (78.2% of normal)
Official Airport
-2.2° C, -1.7º C, -0.5º C, -108.9 mm (68.0% of normal)

Days of Precipitation for February 2017*

Amount : Normal Days : Days This Month
>= 0.2 mm: 17.2 :  19
>= 5 mm:  10.2 : 11
>= 10 mm: 7.5 : 7
>= 25 mm: 3.2 : 3

*Used Backup Data source at Environment Canada WeatherStats.ca

Comparison to recent months of FEBRUARY at Alberniweather


January 2013 had near identical average temperature of 1.5ºC (vs. 1.4ºC 2017). It had high temperatures lower at 3.3ºC (vs. 4.5ºC) but higher lows at 0.2ºC (vs -1.1ºC).  Rain/Precipitation is difficult to compare as my station is not heated to measure snow melt but the 350mm measured at the Airport is similar to 2013.

River and Drought Conditions

There are no advisories or causes for concern.  BC River Forecast Centre site. 

The overall Drought Level picture is not a problem.

Snowpack Situation

You would think that with all this snow, the snowpack would be in great shape… but quantity matters. And our low (70% of normal) precipitation meant that February was below normal for snowpack all month.  There wasn’t a big jump toward normal until the first storm in March.

South Island/Jump Creek (near Nanaimo Lakes) elevation 1134m

The north island is similar but didn’t get the big boost in March so is tracking below normal.

North Island/Wolf Creek (near Gold River) elevation 1422m.

16 day Outlook — A little Warmer but cloudy!

The outlook has us getting warmer next week, then cooling off again (sorry!) but then recovering by the 4th week of March.  Looks like pretty constant rain through that time and maybe some storminess next week.  And a fair amount of cloud.


El Niño/La Niña Discussion:

ENSO-neutral conditions are favored to continue through at least the Northern Hemisphere spring 2017, with increasing chances for El Niño development into the fall.

ENSO-neutral conditions continued during February, with near-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the central equatorial Pacific and above-average SSTs in the eastern Pacific [Fig. 1].

In summary, ENSO-neutral conditions are favored to continue through at least the Northern Hemisphere spring 2017, with increasing chances for El Niño development into the fall.

That’s it!

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