Canada is generally considered to be a cold and snowy country. But that’s not exactly the case as the level of coldness differs across its cities. There are some cities like Vancouver where it’s sunny for months throughout the year. But even for a sunny place, there are still dull days. So, does it snow in Vancouver?
Yes, it snows in Vancouver. But the amount of snow here is little compared to what obtains in the rest of Canada. The average annual snowfall in the city is around 24 cm, but rain falls more often. Snowstorms are very rare in Vancouver, but even the smallest snowfall could cause significant damage.
Regardless of the low snowfall in the city, Vancouver receives a large amount of rainfall annually. In fact, it’s one of the wettest places in Canada and receives a high volume of rainfall in the winter. Here, we look at how cold Vancouver gets.
How Often Does It Snow in Vancouver?
There’s a general misconception that it doesn’t snow in Vancouver. But this is far from true. Snow falls here even though it isn’t a frequent and heavy occurrence compared with other cities in the country. For example, between 2010 and 2019, the city received an average of 9.3 inches or 24 centimetres of snow annually.
The snowiest month is usually February, with other months such as December and January also witnessing some level of snowfall. Due to its low annual snowfall, Environment Canada ranks it third for cities with the least snowfall in Canada between 1981 and 2010. It only experienced 8.7 days when snowfall was above 0.2 cm.
Between 2010 and 2019, the months that witnessed snowfall include January, February, March, November, December. For the 30 years between 1981 to 2010, other months that witnessed snowfall include May and October. It also appears the average snowfall has decreased over time. In the 30 years between 1981 to 2010, it was 17.5 inches or 45 centimetres of rainfall annually.
Most times, snowfall in Vancouver usually arrives in December, but there are occasions when it comes as early as October. Winter continues till February, but there are times when snow continues to fall till March, and sometimes, residents experience unexpected snowfall in April. Between May and September, residents don’t expect any snow at all.
Do Snowstorms Happen in Vancouver
Winters in Vancouver are quite mild, which means you’re unlikely to get more than 2 inches (5 cm) of snowfall any day it snows. There are, however, some rare days with snowstorms when Vancouver gets up to 10 cm of snowfall in a day. Unfortunately, this happens only about two times a year.
Major blizzards with up to 25 cm of snowfall days are very rare in the city. It doesn’t happen every year, but if it’s going to happen, you can expect it in December. Due to the heavy rainfall, snow doesn’t accumulate much on the ground here, even in the winter. Rainfall usually washes away snow remnants within a few days. Therefore, when deep snow is most likely to surface in Vancouver is between the end of December and early January.
The reason for the low amount of snow in the city is its climate. Vancouver enjoys an oceanic climate according to the Köppen climate classification. This climate largely explains why it has minimal snow in the winter. The climate isn’t peculiar to Vancouver alone as it applies to the entire metropolitan area. As part of the West Coast, Vancouver is one of the few cities where the temperature is rarely below freezing, even in the winter.
The temperature in Vancouver is usually mild, and summers are not so hot. The hottest months are July and August, when the weather can reach up to 22 °C (72 °F). The mean temperature all year is a comfortable 10.4°C. December and January are the coldest months, and during this period, the temperature can drop as low as one °C or even 0°C. However, the temperature is rarely negative.
Despite the low level of snow, Vancouver is very rainy. It’s one of the rainiest cities in the country as it experiences an average of 161 days of rain annually. In 2021, there were 169 days of rainfall in the city, during which the total precipitation was 44.9 inches (1140 mm). The winter is when it rains most heavily here, but summers are pretty dry. The city experiences minimal rain in the summer, making Vancouver one of the driest cities in Canada in the summer season.
The driest month, of course, is July, when rain is usually less than 5 mm on multiple occasions. In July 2013, there wasn’t any drop of rain in Vancouver; the first time such a thing would happen.
What To Expect When It Snows in Vancouver
Due to Vancouver’s generally low snow level, there are minimal infrastructure and provisions in place for when it snows. Thus, only small snowfall could affect the activities within the city, leading to school closures and traffic problems.
Winter in Vancouver can be quite wet with a combination of snow, freezing temperature, and rainfall. All these could make the roads exceptionally slippery, thereby making driving more challenging than normal.
Fortunately, blizzards are very rare here. But heavy snowfalls could still happen, and when they do, they could lead to heavy losses. For example, in 1996, an heavy snowfall led to about 24 inches (60 cm) of snow in Vancouver, causing damages worth millions of dollars. Thus, there’s still some room for the unpredictable as far as snowfall in Vancouver is concerned.
Vancouver isn’t like every other major Canadian city when it comes to cold. It’s the only one where the temperature doesn’t become negative even in the winter. Even though it snows here too, the amount of snow is lower than in other parts of Canada. No wonder it’s the warmest metropolitan area in the country. So while it snows in Vancouver, the volume is significantly smaller.