After experiencing stormy, La Nina-inspired weather for the third year in a row through much of November and December, winter in the Okanagan has taken a turn for the warm and experts aren’t surprised.
It’s been a mild start to 2023 in Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton, with temperatures staying well above average during the first half of January — a stark contrast to the “cold, snowy chaos” that wrapped up the memories for many in 2022.
“This just speaks to the variability of the weather that we do get in B.C,” said Bobby Sekhon, a meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada. “This month has been way different from what we saw in December and that goes to show that you have to take seasonal forecasts with a big grain of salt.”
The Okanagan has been locked into a La Nina winter-weather pattern since 2020, a system that generally brings colder-than-normal temperatures.
But in Penticton, for instance, average daytime temperatures haven’t dipped below zero since Jan. 6. And after shattering monthly averages and seeing a total of 35 centimetres of snow in December, the community has only experienced one centimetre of snow in January.
Still, Sekhon warns that the “unpredictable” Okanagan winter is far from over.
“When temperatures warm up around this time, you could see the optimism that winter is winding down, however, keep in mind that February could be one of the coldest months of the year,” the meteorologist said. “And this year, we are seeing some indications that there could be a cooler trend to February in the Okanagan.”
The anticipated transition from above-average temperatures to either below-seasonal or average temperatures comes with potential snowfall and avalanche risks, Sekhon adds.
Just like the risk of flooding increases after the transition from colder-than-normal to above-seasonable temperatures, as seen across the region earlier this month.
Following one more week of above-average daytime highs, the three aforementioned cities may experience below-zero temperatures starting Monday, Jan. 23.
Much of B.C.’s Interior is forecasted for sunny skies and temperatures as high as 4 C from Jan. 18 to 20, before periods of snow are expected to hit part of the region.
“Although we do have that La Nina signal to hang our hats on, that signal is fading,” Sekhon said. “Don’t expect anything crazy to come in terms of winter by next week.”