La Nina still on vacation; avalanche risk high

The calendar may say December, but the weather outside feels a lot more like spring.

 

The calendar may say December, but the weather outside feels a lot more like spring, with near record-breaking temperatures and rains hitting the Comox Valley.

On Wednesday, Environment Canada recorded 12.0 C at the Comox weather station, a record from the previous one of 10.1 C set in 2005.

“(The warm weather) does happen, but it’s just not very common,” explained Colin Fong, meteorologist for Environment Canada. “It’s been especially warm and it’s not what we expect for this time of year which is rainy and cool.”

Fong said the warm holiday weather is thanks to a mild westerly flow off the Pacific Ocean, a flow which generally doesn’t reach as far north as it has this past week.

“Typically the jet stream dips quite south of the 49th parallel, and usually the Arctic front flows down, typically pushing cold air down, but we haven’t had that yet,” he noted.

Although predictions earlier this year indicated the possibility of a La Niña phenomenon — when sea surface temperatures across the equatorial central and eastern Pacific are below normal, often producing extreme cold outbreaks — Fong said cold weather could be in the near future.

“It is still possible (to have a La Niña system); typically it doesn’t rear it’s ugly head until January or February,” he added.

Despite the balmy temperatures, there is a downside to the rainy, spring-like weather. At higher elevations, where precipitation falls as snow, the weather has triggered a high level avalanche advisory for some areas of the North Island’s back country, such as Mount Cain.

The Vancouver Island Avalanche Bulletin indicated a high risk Thursday and Friday for alpine areas.

At Mount Washington, the resort has received 19 cm of new snow within the past 48 hours, with a snow base of 157 cm. The forecast for the weekend predicts periods of light to moderate snowfall into the new year.

Looking ahead, Fong said the weather will continue to stay warm into early 2012, and added residents may event catch a break on New Year’s Day with the possibility of a dry, even sunny day.

 

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