March 2016 Summary – Plenty of Records but extremes moderate as El Niño wanes.

Above Average March in temperature.  Normal to above normal for precipitation.  A moderating outlook.

The month was kind of bookended with records.  We had an all time record high temperature set on February 25th  and then we got a strong rainfall event that generated a flurry of short-term records starting March 1.  At the end of the month we knocked off two all time, all station temperature records when we got into the low twenties.  We did it again this past week too.

We weren’t the only place in the Pacific Northwest to get abnormally high temperatures of course.  Northwest Washington State did much the same, and Klawock, Alaska on the Alaska Panhandle near Haida Gwaii set an all time temperature record for the month of March on March 31 when they got up to 22ºC (71ºF).  The US NOAA National Summary for March indicates that country has had its fourth warmest March on record.

Those records really provided the main story for the month.  Other than that, the local snowpack is probably the other main concern that we should not be complacent about.  Even though we have recovered from last years historic zero-event, we still are not at a normal snowpack for our region, particularly at lower elevations.


El Niño is waning and it is taking some of the extreme temperatures and precipitation forecasts with it all over the globe but climate change and global warming has ensured that we are still running a couple degrees above normal anyway.

Enjoy the data below!

El Niño update

Here is the March 10 El Niño discussion.  I would expect much the same from the April update that should come out this week.

A transition to ENSO-neutral is likely during late Northern Hemisphere spring or early summer 2016, with close to a 50 percent chance for La Niña conditions to develop by the fall.



Well Below Average Snowpack Seems Huge

The latest snowpack survey and commentary released by the River Forecast centre on April 1 includes the following on our situation:

Temperatures across British Columbia continued to be well above normal through the month of March, with daily temperatures being 1-3˚C above normal through southern BC, and 2‑4˚C above normal through the Kootenays, Central, and Northern BC. These warm temperatures have persisted throughout the 2015-16 winter.

Despite the warmer weather, wet conditions led to seasonal snow pack growth across most of the province through March.

In general, snow basin indices are near normal (80-120%) across the province, with a provincial average of 91%.

The Centre has Vancouver Island listed as 99% of normal.  A good turnaround but the devil is in the details:

Due to warm weather throughout the winter, low to mid elevation snow packs across the province are greatly diminished this season. While the provincial average for all April 1st surveys is 91% of normal, the average for sites below 1200 m elevation is 62% of normal, and just 44% of normal for sites below 1000m.

Warm weather towards the end of March and in early April has led to the onset of the melt season across the province. All of the provincial automated snow weather stations have recorded melt over the past week, as well as a number of manual surveys which experienced a loss of snow water equivalent between the March 1st and April 1stsurveys. The transition from snow accumulation to snow melt is two to three weeks earlier than usual this season.

That last paragraph explains what we are seeing in the graph below specifically on South Vancouver Island as it is a generally low-elevation area.  The snow pillow measuring station at Jump Creek is at 1134m and the dark blue line indicates that it is at about 60% of normal (mauve line).  This also jives better with the anecdotal evidence as we look up at Mt. Arrowsmith (1,819m) already quickly shedding its snow in the recent record warmth.


16 day Outlook — Gradually drying.

Here are the 16-day GEPS consensus graphs from SpotX.  It looks like the cloudy pattern will continue for at least another week and we may get a shot of rain late this week (more on that in another post).  We are definitely moving into the drier season as the full outlook only calls for a total of 100mm to the end of the month. The maximum temperatures are not rising too much but the minimum temperatures definitely have an upward trend.

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Three-Month Forecasts 

North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) 3-month Temperature, Precipitation and Sea Surface Temperature.

The abnormal heat in Canada, is now set to back off for the next 3 month period (May,June,July), which has to be a relief.  This seems to be a further backing off from the last three month forecast, which likely indicates it is due to El Niño’s grip loosening.  However, it is important to still recognize that this forecast remains a much higher than normal forecast with temperatures from the East to West coast of Canada uniformly expected to be between 1-2ºC above normal for the next two months, it simply isn’t ‘extreme’.


Here is the MARCH run showing April/May/June which had moderated slightly from very extreme outlooks earlier in the year.


Here is the Precipitation Forecast for the next three months.  Similar to the temperature forecast, the intensity has backed off.  We seem to have a large area of normality, which is kind of abnormal.  This is seems to indicate that the below normal precipitation predicted last month was either a result of an especially abnormal April or the data has changed.  Either way, it is encouraging for the upcoming fire season.


Last month’s  forecast for the previous 3 month period had our area expecting below normal precipitation.



Global seasonal forecasts

Global Temp and Precip Spring, Summer, Fall and/or Winter forecast from current and last month runs. Only 1 of 2 seasons are within the forecasts in any given month.

This months forecast: Summer 2016 and Fall 2016

Summer 2016:

Summer (June, July, August) Temperature current month forecast
Summer (June, July, August) Precipitation current month forecast

Here is the last month’s forecast for Summer 2016.

Summer (June, July, August) Temperature last month forecast
Summer (June, July, August) Precipitation last month forecast

Winter 2016:

Fall (September, October, November) Temperature last month forecast
Fall (September, October, November) Temperature last month forecast


Sea Surface Temperature next 3 months

And finally the Sea Surface Temperature anomaly for the next 3 months. Compared to the two previous forecasts, El Niño is definitely ending as we now see blue along the equator.  In our region however we see persistent above normal temperatures along the West Coast of North America.

This also gives hints to the upcoming early Northern Hemisphere hurricane/typhoon season.  On the Atlantic side we see consistent warm waters off the northeast US and Nova Scotia suggesting potential for more hurricane fuel there but less so in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.  On the West of North American the waters have turned decidedly normal which should diminish activity in that region.


Last months’ forecasts.


That’s it!

Monthly Timelapse Video

Daily records set this month at the Airport (and compared to other stations* for “All Time”)

Three new Airport high temps, three rain, including 2 all time high temp records.

*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.

March 2016  Minimum, Overall and High Daily Average Temps See last month’s and last March’s summary.

Alberniweather3.9º C, 7.6° C, 12.2º C
Alberni Elementary School : 3.8º C, 7.6º C, 12.2° C
Maquinna Elementary School3.7º C, 7.2º C, 11.7° C
Neptune Canada Station4.1º C, 7.6º C, 12.4° C
Nick’s Weather (Maquinna area): 4.1º C, 7.5º C, 11.3° C
Overall City Average: 3.9º C, 7.5 C, 12.0º C
Environment Canada Airport* : 2.3º C, 7.0° C, 11.7º C

1981-2010 EC Normal (Robertson Creek)0.7º C, 5.7º C, 10.5° C

* One missing day.

Precipitation for March 2016:

Alberniweather: 279.4 mm
AES: 260.6 mm
MAQ: NA (Gauge Malfunction)
NEP: NA (not measured)
Nick: 280.0 mm
Overall City Average: 216.2 mm
EC(Uncertain 8 Days Missing Data! 314 mm measured)

1981-2010 Env Canada Normal (Robertson Creek): 239.6 mm

City Stations Temperature Difference from normal:
3.2° C, 1.8º C, 1.5º C
Official (Airport) Temperature Difference from normal:
 1.6º C, 1.3º C, 1.2º C
City Stations Precipitation difference normal:
 -23.4 mm (90.2% of normal)
Official (Airport) Precipitation difference from  normal:

Days of Precipitation for March 2016*
>= 0.2 mm:  Normal: 20 : This Month: 24
>= 5 mm:  Normal: 10.1 : This Month: 13
>= 10 mm: Normal:  7 : This Month: 12
>= 25 mm: Normal: 2.5 : This Month: 6

*Denotes incomplete official Airport station data so using data from Alberni Elementary to fill gaps.

Comparison to recent months of March at Alberniweather

  • 2015: It was a little warmer in 2015 but not much, similar rain. See the March 2015 Summary Here .
  • 2014: Warmer in 2016 and a little more rain. See the March 2014 Summary Here.
  • 2013: A little warmer in 2016 and nearly double the rain.
  • 2012: Significantly Warmer in 2016, similar rain.
  • 2011: Significantly Warmer in 2016, similar rain.
  • 2010: Warmer in 2016 and a lot more rain. (Also an El Niño year).
  • 2009: Significantly Warmer in 2016 and nearly double the rain.
  • 2008: Significantly Warmer in 2016 and over double the rain.
  • 2007: Warmer in 2016 and a lot more rain.
  • 2006: Significantly warmer in 2016 and almost double the rain.

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