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Cold start to summer, but still within averages

June-uary has come to an end, but warmer temperatures could still be a week or two away.

June-uary has come to an end, but warmer temperatures could still be a week or two away.

That's the message from Environment Canada meteorologist David Jones, who says the south coast of the province has faced six weeks of weather that's colder, wetter and darker than the average.

"Usually at this time of year we would see a ridge of high pressure move up over the Pacific and keep us warm and dry, but that's not happening," Jones said. Instead, cold and wet systems from Alaska are pushing down the coast and through the Interior.

"For the first time it looks like there's the potential for summer next week as we're seeing that ridge start to take over. But it's a bit of a ways out in the forecast so I'm always skeptical. (The ridge) could disappear, and we don't see it at all in the American model. But for the first time in a long time we're seeing some promise."

For Whistler, which depends on weather to bring guests, it's been a cold and wet spring for the most part.

On paper it doesn't seem so bad. In May, the mean temperature - the average of high and low temperatures for the month - was 9.2 degrees Celsius in 2010 versus the average of 9.8 degrees. Precipitation, meanwhile, was 65 millimetres - just slightly ahead of the average of 62 mm.

However, Jones said most of that rain fell in the second half of the month, and since then it's been one Alaskan system after another for Whistler and the coast.

"When we look at May on its own it looks like a fairly normal month, but the truth is that the second half was pretty rotten and June wasn't much better, which is why this weather pattern seems like it's been going on for as long as it has."

June was also close to the averages. The mean temperature was 13 degrees, slightly below the long-term average of 13.2, while precipitation has been 52 mm - less than the June average of 58 mm. However, those figures don't tell the whole story, either.

"Normally we would get 14 days of rain in the month of June, but this year we've had 17 days plus traces of rain on three other days - that's some rain on 20 days out of 27 we have data for. The month also started horribly with rain on nine out of the 10 days at the start of the month."

The Whistler weather station doesn't measure hours of sunlight, but in Vancouver they have had just 189 hours of sunshine over the first 27 days of June, compared to an average of 229.

"We're down about 30 hours, which is three good days in terms of sunshine," Jones said.

Jones says that June has always been a month that could go either way, depending on whether the Pacific Ridge or Alaskan fronts were winning. However, he says most people are probably remembering last year, when temperatures in the Lower Mainland were between two and three degrees warmer than the average.

The colder weather has had a few impacts locally. For one, the organizers of the Barebones Challenge orienteering event have decided to move a competition from the alpine on Whistler to the Nesters Hill area because of the snow. Lakes are also colder than normal and few people are going swimming - something the organizers of the Squamish Triathlon believe is responsible for slow registration this year.

Snow in the alpine and a poor early season berry crop has also resulted in more bears in the valley through the spring, which in turn has led to more bear deaths - mostly on the highway - and human-bear conflicts.

There is also an upside. Glacier ski camps are enjoying winter-like conditions and more snow to train on than in recent years.

The current Environment Canada forecast does show improving conditions through the Canada Day long weekend with a mix of sun and cloud. The temperatures will be lower than usual, with highs around 17 degrees on Thursday and Friday, going up to 20 on Saturday and Sunday.