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Looking ahead at spring in BC and Alberta

Staff writers
March 5, 2012 — How will the mild and dry conditions across parts of British Columbia and Alberta this winter impact the spring season ahead?

Projected temperatures across the country
Projected temperatures across the country

Precipitation totals and the overall temperatures for British Columbia this winter have been similar to the 2009/2010 winter season, when precipitation totals were about 50 percent of normal.

So what could that mean for the province this spring?

“After the 2009/2010 winter it was very dry, very mild and subsequently led to a fairly bad fire season for British Columbia,” says Dayna Vettese, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

Back in 2010, BC had a wet spring, followed by a fairly dry summer. If BC sees another wet spring, the fire season might not be as bad.

"But if we continue on this dry spell then we will have a fairly bad fire season,” Vettese says.

Alyson Couch is a Fire Information Officer with BC Wildfire Management.

She adds that snow pack levels can act as an indicator about what's in store in the months ahead.

Alberta has had a relatively mild winter
Alberta has had a relatively mild winter

“It has been drier in many areas of the province, particularly the southern interior. But one thing to keep in mind when talking about the next fire season is that the summer months are still a ways off, we still have a month of winter to get through," says Couch

"The snowpack levels may be a good indicator of whether we’ll see an early or late start to the fire season, but it won’t really tell us much about how the fire season will pan through in the long run,” adds Couch.

It has also been warmer than normal in Alberta, especially early on this winter.

That’s not a good thing when it comes to the fight against the mountain pine beetle.

Dr. Barry Cooke is a research scientist specializing in Spatial Dynamics of Forest Insect Populations.

He told us that in general, when an arctic air mass moves in suddenly during mid-winter, -37°C is enough to kill 50 percent of a population, but it hasn't been that cold.

In fact, the temperature in Edmonton hasn't dropped to -37°C at all this winter.
“Canadian Forest Service researchers in January checked some trees near Edson, Alberta and found that the larvae were in good condition and surviving well,” Dr. Cooke said.

“This observation is supported by simulations of the Regniere-Bentz cold tolerance model. The model is suggesting that we had a single cold snap back in late November that killed a small portion of the population, and very little since then. This includes the recent cold snap in mid-January, which is predicted to have an impact on the core area of attack throughout central Alberta, but less of an impact on the southeastern leading edge.”

To find out more about what you can expect this spring, check out the 2012 Spring Outlook.

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