B.C. weather: Warmer summer projected with return of El Nino this year

Click to play video: 'B.C. evening weather forecast: Jan. 24'
B.C. evening weather forecast: Jan. 24
Senior meteorologist Kristi Gordon has your evening forecast for Metro Vancouver and British Columbia – Jan 24, 2023

For the past three years, winters across British Columbia have been colder and snowier than usual.

That should change, possibly starting next month, courtesy of El Nino.

Environment Canada says equatorial waters, and how warm or cold they are, have a profound effect on weather patterns in western Canada despite being thousands of kilometres away.

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When those waters are warm, or above average, it’s called the El Nino effect, and B.C. can expect warmer temperatures and milder or warmer winters.

When those waters are cold, or below average — which has been the case recently — it’s called La Nina, and B.C. can expect colder temperatures and colder winters.

“(The effects) really don’t affect the day-to-day weather in terms of forecasting it,” Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips said in an interview with CKNW.

“But if you’re looking at seasonal forecasts, the next month, the next season, the next year, then it really does improve your batting average.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. evening weather forecast: Jan. 24'
B.C. evening weather forecast: Jan. 24

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), equatorial sea surface temperatures are currently below average across most of the Pacific Ocean.

However, a transition is anticipated between February and April, with the NOAA anticipating an 82 per cent chance that ocean temperatures will move into normal, or neutral, conditions (plus or minus half a degree).

“It’s a very important element for getting the season forecasting right if you’ve got an El Nino or La Nina,” said Phillips.

“We know the signal between El Nino and La Nina in our winters is pretty strong. You could almost go to the bank on it. But it doesn’t necessarily hold true for our summers.”

So, what does this mean for B.C. residents? Only time will tell what the weather will be like, but here’s something to consider: The province has had two hot summers in a row despite La Nina conditions.

Phillips said 2021 was the warmest summer on record while 2022 was the third-warmest summer on record.

Click to play video: 'Wild winter weather brings surprising moments in B.C.'
Wild winter weather brings surprising moments in B.C.

This month, Columbia University in New York published a small paper on global temperatures.

The four-page report says tropical neutral conditions are expected by spring, with continued warming as the year progresses. It also said 2023 should be notably warmer than 2022, and the global temperature in 2024 is likely to reach 1.4 to 1.5 C above normal.

But it also said this: “Although there is a consensus among the models that an El Nino is expected, the magnitude of the global warming is difficult to predict.”

Interestingly, in B.C., 2022 began cold and remained quite cool through spring and into early June. Then came the heat, leading to a hot summer and a quite warm fall — which Phillips said turned out to be the 10th warmest autumn on record.

“When you look at (2022), it was two kinds of years,” said Phillips, noting that, overall, the year ranked the 20th warmest overall.

Click to play video: 'Helping B.C. communities prepare for extreme heat waves'
Helping B.C. communities prepare for extreme heat waves

“So we had a cool beginning, which fit that La Nina pattern, but the second half was warmer than normal,” said Phillips. “There’s not that signal of what the warm season is going to be like from La Nina.

“The current situation is that we see it going to a neutral situation.”

Phillips said when El Nino does arrive, “you generally have your warmest summers, your warmest years are during El Nino years. Your coldest years are during La Nina years.”

He also said “so you could imagine how warm it would have been if there had been no La Nina. This is what has concerned climatologists around the world.”

Click to play video: 'Learning lessons from last year’s heat dome'
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