Rainfall recovers, brings snowpack to 50% normal. Warm mornings, cool afternoons

Like February, March provided a little more relief from the historic drought of the fall and early winter. We received above normal rainfall and this allowed the snowpack to recover just a little bit more from its historic lows a month previous. However, compared to the past few years it was a little drier than we’ve seen and definitely warmer.

Snowpack recovering, but still low.

The BC River Forecast Centre shows we remain around half of our normal. As you can see below, at the start of April the average is around 1400mm (brown line) and this years snowpack is around 700-800mm (dark blue line) :

As can be seen from the average line, April is generally when the snow pack is at its highest, so what we have up there now is what we will have to get us through until (hopefully) the rainy season begins again in October.

Temperatures average out to near or just below normal.

If you look at the trends in the climate change link (red link top of page), you will see daytime minimums rising through the decades. This past month was no different. Even though our daytime highs were well below normal both in the City (-2.2°C) and at the Airport (-1.8°C), our daytime lows nearly offset those in the City (+1.8°C) and took a big chunk out at the Airport (+0.6°C).

Warming up and a big El Niño on the way?

The middle of April is looking warm. Temperatures may approach 20°C this weekend. Normal average high for the whole month of April is 14°C and average low is 3°C. Up to this early date our average high has been 12.8°C and low 4°C so it’s a warm start to the month already.

The buzz in the weather community though has been a little more long term and focused further south. We haven’t had an El Niño since 2010 (remember the Vancouver Olympics’ trouble with snow?) and we haven’t had a very strong El Niño since the strongest one ever recorded in 1997/1998 (which coincides with the “15 years of cooling” you hear from the climate denial crowd).

El Niño tends to start in the Western Pacific near Indonesia and Australia in spring and work it’s way East until it sets up shop off the coast of South America. Scientists are keeping a close eye on the Western Equatorial Pacific and they are seeing similarities.
Here is the West Pacific on April 4, 1997:


And here it is on April 4, 2014

The concentration of warm water around the equator is the El Niño signal and it is of similar intensity. What I actually find even more impressive(and concerning) though is the rest of the ocean waters from the Indian to the Pacific, which are significantly above normal compared to 1997.

The Earth was very different in 1997. Since then, the Arctic has smashed its own lows for both ice extent and volume multiple times and is generally thought to have entered an entirely new regime. The possible links of that to the jetstream may be causing an increase in severe weather events and drought and flood patterns much like we saw here in fall 2012 and again this past fall. The El Niño and La Niña patterns are arguably the earth processes with the single largest impact on our annual weather patterns. It also either injects or consumes vast amounts of heat into and out of the atmosphere respectively. Contrary to what deniers say, the Earth has continued to warm since 1998, with the warmest year now 2010. Most importantly the potential warmth being trapped has increased as CO2 levels have gone from 350ppm to 400ppm in that very short time.

This rising ‘floor’ of both temperatures and warming potential will mean a new very strong El Niño of the same intensity as the one in 1997 would inevitably smash world temperature records so it’s progress will continue to be watched very closely in the months ahead. We will not feel the effects of the El Niño if it comes until this fall or winter and into next year at this time.

Average Daily Temperature for March:
Changes for 2014 and onwards:
We are using only 1981-2010 ‘normals’ and ‘averages’
We are grouping the official “Airport” records with Robertson Creek “normals” and my and other city stations with the old “A” station because of significant differences in values and locations.

City Station Ave. Difference from Somass 1981-2010 normal: -0.47° C
Official (Airport) Difference from Robertson Creek 1981-2010 normal: -0.35° C
Environment Canada Airport: 5.3° C
Alberniweather:6.1° C
Alberni Elementary:6.0° C
Maquinna: 5.6° C
Neptune Canada: 6.1° C
Overall City Average: 5.95° C
1981-2000 Environment Canada Normal (A – Somass): 6.42° C
1981-2010 Environment Canada Normal (Robertson Creek): 5.65° C

Average Minimum Daily Temperature for March:
City Station Ave. Difference from Somass 1981-2010 normal: 1.82° C
Official (Airport) Difference from Robertson Creek 1981-2010 normal: 0.66° C
EC: 1.4° C
Alberniweather: 3.2° C
AES: 3.0° C
MAQ: 2.8° C
NEP: 3.4° C
Overall City Average: 3.1° C
1981-2000 Environment Canada Normal (A – Somass): 1.28° C
1981-2010 Environment Canada Normal (Robertson Creek): 0.74° C

Average Maximum Daily Temperature for March:
City Station Ave. Difference from Somass 1981-2010 normal: -2.24° C
Official (Airport) Difference from Robertson Creek 1981-2010 normal: -1.79° C
EC: 9.2° C
Alberniweather: 10.0° C
AES: 9.9° C
MAQ: 9.5° C
NEP: 10.3° C
Overall City Average: 9.93° C
1981-2000 Environment Canada Normal (A – Somass): 11.50° C
1981-2010 Environment Canada Normal (Robertson Creek): 10.51° C

Average Precipitation for December:
City Station Ave. Difference from Somass 1981-2010 normal: 82.06 mm (145% normal)
Official (Airport) Difference from Robertson Creek 1981-2010 normal: 23.33 mm (170% of normal)
EC: 367.4 mm
Alberniweather: 245.1 mm
AES: 262.2 mm
MAQ: 280.6 mm
NEP: NA (not measured)
Overall City Average: 262.6 mm
1981-2000 Environment Canada Normal (A – Somass): 180.57 mm
1981-2010 Environment Canada Normal (Robertson Creek): 215.55 mm

Comparison to recent February’s at Alberniweather (only).

2013: March 2014 was a little cooler than last year, but much drier. We got 245mm of rain in March 2013.

March 2012 was very cold compared to this year and again much wetter.

March 2011 was very cold this year and much wetter like 2013 and 2012.

March 2010 was similar in temperature and a little wetter (200mm) than this year.

March 2009 was similar in precipitation, but a little cooler.

March 2008 was a little cooler in temperature, and drier.

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1 thought on “March 2014 Summary – Spring brings rain, snow and possible El Niño

  1. They posted a special weather statement to tell us it would be sunny this weekend.. Oh my God! Run for the caves… the UV… oh no! Pfffhtht. Really? I statement for that?

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