Have a Merry Christmas and better weather

christmascard-image-24dec2016The rain was bad enough. Then it snowed. Then it got cold. Now there’s more snow – lots of it. What’s next?

This has been one of the strangest years ever when it comes to weather. But there’s some good news in the forecast… I think.

Earlier in the year, the weather experts were predicting a tough winter. A few months ago the Old Farmer’s Almanac backed that up with a prediction for a harsh winter for most of the country. At the same time, though, it said B.C. would be an exception, with milder-than-normal temperatures.

That seemed to be coming true until a few weeks ago. Try telling Vancouverites they were having a mild winter as they shovelled their driveways, slip-slided to work and shivered in — wait for it — temperatures that were actually below zero.

Here in the Thompson-Nicola, when I wrote the first draft of this column for the Sun Peaks Independent News, it was 20 below in the valley bottoms and colder on the hillsides. Now, temperatures are up but I spent three hours ploughing out the driveway this morning.

One of the benefits of sitting on TNRD committees is that you learn a lot of stuff. Recently, the Emergency Management and Protective Services Committee that I sit on received a presentation from Environment Canada on what to expect during the next few months.

Matt MacDonald, who carries the title Warning Preparedness Meteorologist, explained what’s been going on with our weather lately. It’s all about El Nino and La Nina and which one is holding the upper hand at any given time.

September saw 20-50 per cent more precipitation than normal here. Our October was cool and even wetter than September — “a relatively miserable October,” as MacDonald put it.

But early November was four to six degrees warmer, though a little wetter, than usual, the warmest since the late 1800s.

The temperature of the ocean at the equator determines what’s happening in the Thompson-Nicola. Last winter was a half degree warmer than normal, though it felt like more, because El Nino was in charge.

The weather guys expected La Nina to take over this past summer (thus the predictions for a bad winter) but things leveled out, and its effects should be short-lived. Therefore, January and February are supposed to be neutral.

Some warmer than normal water off the B.C. coast will warm air masses and, all in all, we’ll have season norms as we enter 2017. Instead of shockingly cold weather in January and February as we were earlier told to get ready for, it’ll all turn into a normal winter. In fact, it could be slightly warmer than usual.

But here’s the fun part. “We don’t have much confidence in this forecast,” said MacDonald. “Take this with a grain of salt.”

When he asked at the end of his presentation if there were any questions, I sort of chuckled because how can you ask questions when everything you’ve just heard carries a huge disclaimer?

If we believe this forecast, which we’re supposed to take with a grain of salt, the winter will soon ease off and return to the sort of weather we usually get this time of year. If not, well, that’s the weather forecasting business.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac, on the other hand, claims an 80 per cent accuracy rate on its seasonal forecasts. It says that in our neck of the woods there will be snow showers and milder temperatures as we close out the month, with alternating cold and mild weather, plus flurries, heading into January. Skiers will likely be happy.

And next summer? Hot.

Mind you, please take anything I’ve just said with a grain of salt.

May everyone in Area P have a white, not-too-cold, Christmas — at least that’s a forecast I’m reasonably confident in.

 

 

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