February’s snowy ending capped off what was a generally cold and dry meteorological winter, according to Environment Canada.
The past week was a frosty one, with snow storms and a record-breaking daily low temperature of -12.9 Celsius at Nanaimo Airport on Feb. 24. That same day, the daytime high was just -0.2 C, which was also a record, said Trevor Smith, Environment Canada meteorologist.
The mean temperature for February in Nanaimo was 3 C, compared to the normal average temperature of 4.3 C. Smith said February also ended up being a fairly dry month with a total precipitation (rain and snowmelt) of 58.6 millimetres, much lower than the normal 126mm of precipitation for the month.
“That was the 17th driest February on record,” Smith said.
For the entire meteorological winter – December, January, February – precipitation for Nanaimo was below normal at 404.8mm compared to the normal average of 484.4mm.
This winter was little colder than normal too with a mean temperature for the three months settling at 2.7 C, below the normal 3.5C, making it the 31st coldest winter since record keeping began in the 1890s.
“We had a cold December and then we had mild January and now we’ve got a colder February,” Smith said. “We had all the arctic air through much of December, January was mild southwest flow and then, come February, late in the month, we had this outbreak of arctic air. Overall the arctic air tended to dominate more than it normally does for those three months.”
Smith suggested one factor influencing winter conditions on the Island is the persistent La Niña oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the tropics.
“We’re still in this La Niña pattern – this is the third winter of having La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific,” he said. “That does tend to, kind of stack the deck in favour of seeing more arctic outbreaks and I think that’s what we saw this winter. It actually came in very early. In November we had arctic air and then once again in December, especially just before Christmas.”
More snow is expected for the Island this week, but it may affect only higher-elevation locations, such as the Port Alberni hump and Sutton Pass on Highway 4. Nanaimo and most of the Island’s lower elevations are more likely get mostly rain.
“Mount Washington should get a good dump and that’s the way we want it, rain in the low lands and snow in the mountains,” Smith said.