Environment Canada has forecasted that El Nino will affect this year’s winter weather, bringing up warm moisture from the equator into Canada.
Lisa Coldwells from Environment Canada said that the Elk Valley could expect a different winter than last year because of El Nino.
“El Nino is a current of warm ocean temperatures that are right along the equator, but it’s been monitored for the last 50 years by the American Weather Agency,” said Coldwells. “Every year there is an index given to what the El Nino is going to be. This year, it is a climate index and it does look like it’s going to be a strong El Nino winter.”
Coldwells said that this winter would likely compare to the winters of 2010 and 1997/98.
“What El Nino does is because it’s an ocean current and there is connections between the ocean and the atmosphere, as the season progresses, those connections gets stronger and they begin to be felt north in the Canadian area, because the equator is a long ways away,” she said.
Last year had higher than average temperatures in B.C. due mostly to a weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean.
“Last winter’s weather was really influenced by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which is a huge mouthful so we called it ‘the blob’,” said Coldwells. “The blob was a blob of really warm water – sort of a pool of warm water sitting off of the coast of B.C. Now that is all broken up and the blob really isn’t a factor anymore this year – it’s going to be El Nino, so that’s good for us because then we don’t have to add the two together and figure out what is going to happen.”
Coldwells continued by saying that El Nino doesn’t affect precipitation as much, meaning that the Elk Valley will likely see more precipitation than last season.
“When you’re looking at El Nino and you’re taking a broad brushed approach here, and you’re using sort of a normal temperature for the entire winter season, El Nino tends to increase the temperature on average by about 1 to 2 degrees. A little bit warmer, but that is over the entire winter,” said Coldwells.
“There is going to be days in there that are going to be cold and arctic like with the arctic air coming out from Alberta and there is going to be days in there where you are getting some really warm wind and sort of a Chinook type wind right down into the valleys and you’ll see some above normal temperatures. It doesn’t affect truly day-to-day weather but it affects the weather on the broad scale throughout the season.”
Coldwells cited that because El Nino makes the overall temperature warmer, the freezing level in the mountains would rise, causing snow to not hit the valley bottoms. She said that the snow level will increase by roughly 100 metres, but there will still be snow at the peaks.
The Elk Valley has experienced a warmer than average October. The average temperature in October in the area is 5.7 degrees and this year the average temperature is 9.8 degrees. There is also less precipitation, with 20.1 mm being the regular average. As of Oct. 24, the area had received just 7.2 mm of rain. Coldwells said that this isn’t a projection of the upcoming winter season.
“Precipitation still is hovering around normal, it’s forecast to be around normal, I wouldn’t panic yet. We haven’t even gotten into November, which is typically the most active for storms to move across in from the Pacific.”