British Columbia

B.C. snowpack reaches record low for May

Snow in B.C. has melted early and quickly this spring, leaving a record-low amount of snowpack on B.C. mountains for May.

Average snow levels around the province are 53% of normal, the lowest for May in 36 years

The snowpack in the Stikine basin, seen here in 2012 near Schaft Creek, is currently just 22 per cent of normal for the area in May. (Stephen Zopf/Flickr)

Snow in B.C. has melted early and quickly this spring, leaving a record-low amount of snowpack on B.C. mountains for May.

Many regions have snow levels less than half of normal for this time of year, according to the latest bulletin from the River Forecast Centre, released this week.

The provincial average is 53 per cent of normal — the lowest level since 1980 when record-keeping began.

"Basically the north just didn't get a lot of snow this year," said hydrologist Tobi Gardner of the River Forecast Centre.

"Province-wide, it's been a warm winter and a very warm spring ... that really chewed away at the snowpack through April."

Overall, conditions as of May 1 look more like June 1 — meaning snow is disappearing three or four weeks early, the report said. It's largely gone from low and mid-elevations already.

(B.C. River Forecast Centre)

Summer drought?

While the low snowpack is record-breaking, it is still difficult to forecast what kind of drought conditions B.C. might be in for this summer, Gardner said.

May and June are historically rainier months in the B.C. Interior, so normal or high rainfall there could still make for a typical summer, he said.

"If it stays dry ... things are sort of setting up for what could be a potential for drought this summer."

A new drought information portal from the B.C. government will provide updated information on streamflow and drought levels around the province this year.


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