I guess that the weather is the most noteworthy topic this month, at least for gardeners. While the rest of North America is plunged into the deep freeze and blanketed with snow the Lower Mainland of British Columbia is enjoying lower than normal rainfall, sunny skies and, aside from frosty nights brought about by clear skies, balmy weather. All talk of weather these days takes place against a background of climate change with scientists assuring us that the past decade or so is composed of years that are amongst the warmest, overall, in recorded history. Although the broader climate has fluctuated, in cyclical fashion, throughout time it is difficult not to ascribe current weather conditions, at least in part, to human activities and it seems that every passing year reinforces that suspicion. This year’s, and last’s, weather in the Lower Mainland may be testament to that phenomenon; let’s hope that our politicians are paying attention to more than just polls.

It might be time to have a look at the snow-pack situation for British Columbia as that data ultimately determines the levels of fresh water available to us this coming summer in local reservoirs. You can access this data at the provincial government’s website, the River Forecast Centre (http://bcrfc.env.gov.bc.ca/bulletins/), and there are links on that page taking you to more in-depth data as well as ‘snow pillow’ data that is posted as spring and summer arrive outlining how the snowmelt is proceeding – valuable information that can warn of flood or drought conditions at that time of year. There is also archive data and Excel and PDF files that can be downloaded.

At present, snowpack for the Upper Fraser basin is sitting at 54% of normal and the site reports that “Almost all basins are below normal, and the Upper Fraser, North and South Thompson, and Columbia basins are well below normal. The Lower Fraser basin is slightly above normal, and the Vancouver Island and South Coast basins are well above normal for this survey period.” Hopefully we will get additional snowfall in the upper reaches of the Fraser this winter to ensure that we have sufficient fresh water for our region and for gardening purposes. The site points out that “by this date, generally about one-half of the BC snowpack has accumulated. This first snow survey bulletin for the year is based on limited data, and more data will be available in subsequent surveys” so check back periodically to see how next summer’s water conditions are shaping up.

Hopefully the drier conditions afford us an opportunity to work in our gardens in preparation for the coming growing season (make hay while the sun shines) and I think that we can look forward to a great gardening year, water conditions notwithstanding.

Jim Thorleifson