Winter has arrived in the Okanagan and according to experts, it’s not going away any time soon.
In mid-November, Environment Canada projected this winter in the region to be “colder than usual.”
It’s a prediction that’s proven to be right so far, as Christmas inches closer and closer.
Environment Canada has issued extreme winter warnings because temperatures reached -16 C with windchill during the day in parts of Okanagan.
But the temperatures recorded over the last week come as no surprise to meteorologist Brian Proctor, even though the numbers have shattered the region’s all-time averages.
“I’m really not (surprised), it honestly depends on what’s happening a lot in the atmosphere,” he said. “When we saw the flow in November in the southwest and west with the atmospheric rivers coming in, we saw all that warm air piling into the southern interior.”
Proctor said that western flows tend to create conditions that support heavy snowfall in southern parts of the province. This is in addition to the cooler temperatures currently being experienced.
The consistent below-zero temperatures in the Okanagan are here to stay — at least for the duration of the “first half of winter”, according to Proctor.
“Typically we could be seeing some changes around February but at this point in time, it does look like it’s going to be colder than usual for the first half of winter, so that’s the end of December and into January.”
Kelowna recorded a temperature of more than 10 C on December 20, 2013. Fast forward to last year and the city is close to extreme cold.
“What’s happening now is that we’re getting this pattern that’s really bringing that cold down from the Northwest Territories and Alaska and down to B.C.,” Proctor said.
Extreme winter updates will be issued on a case by case basis depending on where warnings are issued. What people in a certain region are accustomed to experiencing during the winter plays a role in whether Environment Canada will call the temperatures “extreme.”
“We put -10 C in the Vancouver or Victoria area as something that’s considered absolutely extreme,” Proctor explained. “But when you look at what we could typically put up for areas like the Okanagan Valley, it would be much different than that.”
Penticton’s coldest Christmas day was 1948, when the city experienced a temperature of -17 C.
Proctor would still consider anything above -15 C Okanagan to be significant.
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