Since Monday (December 8, 2014) the West Coast of British Columbia has been pummeled by intense weather systems. We’ve seen very strong winds, record high temperatures, and impressive amounts of precipitation. A prolonged Atmospheric River event brought wet and warm weather to the entire West Coast of North America this week. Weather related chaos was reported from Northern California (where this was reported to be the storm of the decade… although it was still much less intense than it was in Washington or BC) all the way up to BC.

Estimated 7 day precipitation totals for the North Shore ending on the morning of December 11th.
Estimated 7 day precipitation totals for the North Shore ending on the morning of December 11th.

The image above shows estimated precipitation totals for 7 days on the North Shore ending on the morning of December 11th. In fact, looking at data from weather stations in the North Shore Mountains the average rainfall totals since December 8th are closer to 350 mm, with one station reporting 450 mm in 4 days! One 100 mm storm is pretty significant, but 4 days averaging over 100 mm is insane. 450 mm is close to 25% of the average annual precipitation for North Vancouver (city)

Sadly for us snow lovers, all of this precipitation fell in liquid form on the North Shore Mountains. Not only did snow not accumulate, but the heavy rain washed away what little snowpack we had (see video: Capilano River and Lynn Creek Footage).

On Wednesday December 10th we also experienced record temperatures on the South Coast and throughout much of Southern BC. Abostford saw a daytime high over 17 Celsius and YVR peaked over 15 degrees (both previous records were around 13 degrees and have stood since the 50’s). On Dec. 11th winds were measured over 100 km/h on the Coast. Hurricane force winds were reported on Saturna Island (over 118 km/h).

This graph shows daily mean temperatures for West Vancouver so far in December. The high temp was 14.7 C on Dec 10 and the low was -4.5 on Dec 2.
This graph shows daily mean temperatures for West Vancouver so far in December. The high temp was +14.7 C on Dec 10 and the low was -4.5 on Dec 1.

All of this wild weather resulted in local states of emergency, high stream flow advisories, flooding, landslides, and power outages. Click here to see photos showing the damage caused this week. Very impressive. From an avalanche perspective, the snow line was pretty high (above 1800-2000 m) which meant that avalanches were primarily seen at higher elevations and from areas with deeper snowpacks (i.e. not the North Shore). Parts of the interior reported impressive large slides (up to size 3.5) running all the way to the valley bottoms.

So now what? It looks like we should see drier and cooler weather in the short term. It doesn’t look great for snow until maybe next weekend. Fingers crossed we’ll be skiing before Christmas!

A Week of Wild West Coast Weather

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