Landforms of British Columbia - Physical Geography - Climate


British Columbia's climate is best described as varied. The mountainous terrain causes huge changes in climatic conditions over short distances. All winter long the coast is pounded with storm after storm off the Pacific Ocean. The Coast Mountains, Cascades and also the Skeena and Hazelton Mountains block most of the precipitation which forces the majority of the precipitation to fall on the West side of the mountains. In contrast, the leeward side is much drier with some areas classified as semi-arid. The Coast of British Columbia is by far the wettest area in Canada, while areas located 150–200 km inland are some of the driest places in Canada outside of the High Arctic.

Coastal British Columbia experiences the mildest winters in Canada where freezing temperatures are infrequent. Victoria, generally considered the mildest city in Canada, has gone an entire winter without freezing. At the Sheringham Point weather station (CWSP) in the town of Shirley, sub-freezing nights are rare indeed; and completely freeze-free winter seasons a very common occurrence. In fact, the town of Shirley endures far less freezing winter weather than numerous popular tourist destinations including, but not limited to - Austin, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; and even Daytona Beach, Florida! Along with the moderating effect of the Pacific Ocean, the mountains impede the flow of the cold arctic air during the winter. The only exception is the northeastern portion of the province situated on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. Without the protection of the mountains, the climate is similar to that found in the neighboring parts of Alberta. The winters are very cold and the summers are warmer than areas west of the Rockies.

Summer daytime temperatures in the Southwestern Interior are the hottest in Canada. During July and August, the average daily maximum temperature around Osoyoos and Spences Bridge is over 29 °C (84.2 °F), though Lillooet and Lytton erroneously claim to be hotter and vie for the title of "Canada's Hot Spot". This is because their summertime temperature extremes tend to be hotter than Osoyoos and Spences Bridge (despite a slightly cooler average temperature). This heat combined with little precipitation means that arid animals and vegetation thrive. Although winter temperatures are much colder than Coastal British Columbia, this area is still milder than almost anywhere else in Canada. Southern Interior valleys, including the Okanagan Valley, are spared the incessant precipitation found on the coast, but they receive some of the lowest amounts of bright sunshine in Canada during the winter months. This is a result of winter temperature inversions that leave the valleys in a layer of thick cloud while the rest of the province basks in sunshine.

Representative Climate Normals
Zone Average annual temperature Average July daily high Record Max Average January daily low Record Min Average snowfall Average rainfall
North East (Fort Nelson) -0.7 °C 23 °C 36.7 °C -25.6 °C -51.7 °C 177.8 cm 319.8 mm
North West (Dease Lake) -0.8 °C 19.4 °C 35.3 °C -22 °C -51.2 °C 218.4 cm 264.8 mm
Peace (Dawson Creek) 1.6 °C 21.7 °C 34.5 °C -20.6 °C -49.2 °C 174.2 cm 325.6 mm
Central Interior (Prince George) 4.0 °C 22.1 °C 36.0 °C -13.6 °C -50.0 °C 216.1 cm 418.9 mm
North Coast (Prince Rupert) 7.1 °C 16.1 °C 28.7 °C -2.1 °C -24.4 °C 126.3 cm 2468.5 mm
Southwestern Interior (Kamloops) 8.9 °C 28.3 °C 40.6 °C -7.6 °C -37.2 °C 75.5 cm 217.9 mm
Southeastern Interior (Cranbrook) 5.7 °C 25.6 °C 36.6 °C -11.8 °C -40.0 °C 139.9 cm 270.7 mm
South Coast (Vancouver) 10.1 °C 21.7 °C 33.3 °C 0.5 °C -17.8 °C 48.2 cm 1154.7 mm

Source: Environment Canada, Canadian Climate Normals or Averages 1971-2000

City Weather Facts - *Based on the 100 largest cities in Canada
Warmest Annual Temperature Coldest Annual Temperature Sunniest Cloudiest Driest Wettest
City Chiliwack - 10.5 °C Fort St. John - 2.0 °C Cranbrook - 2205 hours Prince Rupert - 1229 hours Kamloops - 279 mm Prince Rupert - 2594 mm

Source: Environment Canada, Weather Winners WebSite

Weather Extremes
Variable Location Date
Maximum Temperature 44.4°C (112°F) Lillooet,Lytton, and Chinook Cove July 1941
Minimum Temperature −58.9°C (−74°F) Smith River February 1947
Least Precipitation in One Year 102 mm (4.0 in) Ashcroft 1930
Most Precipitation in One Year * 9,307 mm (366.4 in) Henderson Lake 1997
Most Snow in One Year * 2,420 cm (950 in) Mount Copeland 1971
Hottest Summer 23.8 °C (74.8 °F) Lillooet 1958
Coldest Winter −30.5 °C (−22.9 °F) Lower Post 1968/69
Sunniest Month 424.6 hours Victoria July 1958
  • indicates a Canadian record.

Source: Environment Canada

Read more about this topic:  Landforms Of British Columbia, Physical Geography

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