Weather Network’s winter forecast a little flaky

‘La Nada’ system difficult to predict

Vancouverites can expect less Pineapple Express and more arctic air this winter.

“Vancouver will experience variable weather patterns where it will rain for a few weeks before it changes to a different pattern for a few weeks,” said Elena Lappo, a meteorologist with the Weather Network, during a phone interview from Oakville Ont., Tuesday morning.

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“The B.C. Coast will experience more arctic outbreaks, but over time it will average out to seasonal or slightly below seasonal amounts of precipitation.”

Lappo said meteorologists from the Weather Network examine a number of factors while compiling a winter forecast for December, January and February for Canada.

The team compares long-range computer models of patterns across the world, looks for signs of weather systems such as El Niño or La Niña and considers the atmospheric conditions of the world’s oceans.

“It’s very important to look at these patterns together and compare them to computer models of previous years with similar conditions,” said Lappo.

“But because this year there is no indication of El Niño or La Niña, there is no strong signal to indicate patterns, making a forecast much more difficult to predict.”

According to the network, this neutral weather system dubbed “La Nada” typically means a less predictable, highly variable pattern, while storm tracks are less established but persistent.

The network predicts a major storm will affect all of Eastern Canada over the next several days followed by bitter arctic air in much of the interior of B.C. with a possibility of heavy snow.

“In Vancouver, you can probably expect flurries as early as next week,” said Lappo, who added Vancouver typically sees 32 centimetres of snow each winter.

Murray Wightman, streets operations manager for the city, said he has heard there is a possibility of snow next week and his department is ready.

“I’ve heard several different stories about what’s going to happen next week,” said Wightman. “But no matter what, we’re good to go.”

Wightman’s annual budget for snow removal is $750,000 and while some years, such as in 2008, the budget is exceeded, at most times the city stays within that number.

Wightman added his snow plan make a priority of 14 major snow routes to which he immediately dispatches 14 trucks.

Wightman said while until two years ago bike routes were something of an afterthought, they are now a priority.

“What’s evolved in the City of Vancouver is that instead of trying to do bike routes off the side of my desk, there is now an automatic response to get them cleared,” said Wightman.

“I asked the city for the top 15 most heavily used and prioritized them into three groups.”

Wightman also ensures parts of the seawall are cleared immediately and coordinates with organizations such B.C. Ambulance, Coast Mountain Bus Company and the Vancouver School Board.

He noted Vancouver Fire and Rescue and the Vancouver Police Department typically use chains to get around the city.

Wightman said once a snowfall is predicted, crews salt streets the night before because the salt works only it has been ground into asphalt by vehicle tires. He added that’s why the city now often uses a salt brine, which is sprayed onto streets.

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