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Complete Metro Vancouver winter forecast includes shift from 3-year trend

Here's how that shift will impact temperature and snowfall levels.
The Metro Vancouver weather forecast looks dramatically different for 2023-2024 than it has for several previous years.

'Tis the season...for El Niño to finally show its impact across the Lower Mainland. 

The Metro Vancouver weather forecast includes a shift to warmer-than-average conditions starting in mid to late December as El Niño brings milder temperatures to the region. 

Since 2020, the planet has been in the cold phase (La Niña) of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate pattern. Locally, La Niña conditions typically produce colder winters and above-average snowfall in and around Metro Vancouver. As such, these seasons are usually a boon for alpine enthusiasts looking to carve champagne powder on B.C.'s ski hills. 

But the arrival of El Niño could mean the province will see a significantly warmer -- and possibly much less snowy -- winter.

Environment Canada Meteorologist Armel Castellan tells V.I.A. the climate pattern won't start to impact the region in the first couple of weeks of December. Instead, Metro Vancouver will likely see a variety of stormy weather, including plenty of rainfall and some windy periods

Atmospheric river to drench B.C. coast

On Monday or Tuesday next week, an atmospheric river will bring substantial rain to Metro Vancouver. While these rain events can wreak devastation, such as the floods of November 2021, most of them aren't destructive.

"We get about 20 to 30 of them annually," explains Castellan, who notes that they largely benefit local ecosystems. He adds that this one will bring temperatures up a bit and it won't be as "juicy" as the 2021 event. Also, it will last roughly 24 to 30 hours - about half as long as November 2021's devastating atmospheric river event.  

Meteorological winter kicked off on Friday, Dec. 1 and a couple of highway alerts are in effect for B.C. The Sea-to-Sky and Coquihalla are expected to receive heavy snowfall overnight, resulting in hazardous driving conditions.

While the weather forecast for the next couple of weeks is uncertain, El Niño should start to impact the region starting in late December.

How El Niño could impact the spring Metro Vancouver weather forecast 

Environment Canada qualifies this year's expected El Niño event as "strong," meaning it could have a significant impact on the region. The department expects temperatures will be roughly 1.2 C above seasonal averages and the milder conditions will dominate January and February; the climate pattern may also continue to produce milder temperatures from March through May, Castellan described. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s climate prediction centre says there is a 62 per cent chance El Niño will continue into spring (April to June 2024) in the Northern Hemisphere. After this point, it will likely transition back to a neutral climate pattern. 

In addition to above-average winter temperatures, El Niño may produce below-average precipitation levels for part of the season in B.C., according to a new report from The Weather Network. 

But the drier-than-average forecast doesn't preclude Metro Vancouver from seeing some seriously wet weather.

Instead, the weather channel expects the Lower Mainland will see significant rain events peppered throughout the season. It remarks that there is a threat of a "pineapple express," which is a strong type of atmospheric river that develops near Hawaii and can wallop B.C.'s south coast with wind, rain, and snow, according to NOAA's ocean service. 

Globally, El Niño may produce near-record (or record, depending on the strength of El Niño) global temperatures as the warming from the climate pattern combines with the long-term global warming trend. 

To find out the weather forecast for your Metro Vancouver neighbourhood, check out V.I.A.'s Weatherhood. It has up-to-date information about the current conditions and expected changes broken on 6-, 12-, and 24-hour periods and a seven-day forecast for over 50 places across the region.