Cool weather contributing to late-melting snow pack

With the late spring, the snow pack in the Kettle region is still above its normal levels.

The danger is that sudden hot weather will quickly melt the snow and cause flooding in the valley.

Dave Campbell, head of the Ministry of Environment River Forecast Centre, said a lot of the issue could be attributed to La Nina, an ocean-atmospheric phenomenon that is affecting the Pacific.

“We’re looking at things in a La Nina cycle right now which is related to ocean temperature issues off the Pacific,” Campbell said. “What’s typically associated with that is cool and wet conditions throughout the province and what we’ve seen is cooler than normal, especially in April.”

He said that since the beginning of winter, there has been a steady building of snow pack, from low normal, to normal, to slightly above normal.

“It’s slightly above normal, but it’s not extreme and the La Nina cycle is not typically associated with waves of hot weather.”

He said that there has been a bit of a delay now in the warmer weather.

“That does potentially push up potential flood risk, the more we delay,” Campbell said. “If we have snow on the ground and we start to hit significantly hot weather that could be of concern.“

The centre is between cycles right now for the snow survey. It has an automated pillow that they rely on mostly for the Kettle Valley area, which gives them continuous data, but they also have monthly sampling. The sampling happens May 1 and takes another week to process.

“We’ve seen, particularly this past month, an increase in snow pack and sort of a delay in the onset of melt,” he said.

“We’ve gone from April, where we had pretty normal conditions, to now, where we’re sitting at maybe 110 to 120 per cent of normal, so we’ve had an increase in the last month.”

He said that the increase is fairly consistent with other areas in B.C.

“As of April levels, and even now, we’re sort of sitting at similar levels, or below even, that we saw in 2007, 2008, or even 2006 on the Kettle,” he said. “We have similar conditions to that.”

What they haven’t yet seen is the transition from accumulating snow to melting snow, which typically happens middle to end of April.

The Kettle River currently tops the Outdoor Recreation Council of British Columbia’s list of most endangered rivers for 2011.