The Pacific Rim is dominated by its weather. Its location on the Estevan Coastal Plain, wedged between the sea and the mountains, creates a maritime climate unique to Canada. Other areas on the planet sharing a similar climate include coastal BC, Washington and Oregon, the west coasts of Scotland, Chile, New Zealand’s South Island and Norway.
Characteristic of a marine climate, the weather is very changeable, with heavy rainfall – 300cm/yr.
Summer average mean temperature: 14 C Frequent, morning fog
Winter average mean temperature: 6 C Frequent heavy rainfall
Spring average mean temperature: 10 C
Autumn average mean temperature: 6 C
The dominant pattern is an eastward movement of air, from the open Pacific Ocean over the coastal lowland. Moist air masses from the Pacific are confronted by the topographic barrier of the Vancouver Island Ranges. Encountering these mountains, airflow is forced upward and cooled, forming an abundance of precipitation from a typically dense and persistent cloud cover. It is not unusual for this area to receive more than 300 cm of precipitation annually. The climate is characteristically mild and humid. Moderate temperatures and high precipitation combine to produce a long growing period with relatively minor variations of season. This wet, maritime climate results in a lush temperate rainforest and freedom from the extreme temperature changes so common in most parts of Canada. While the seasonal changes may be subtle by comparison, there are some recognizable patterns.
Summers on the west coast are cooler, cloudier, and wetter than adjacent regions to the south and east, such as the communities of Port Alberni, Nanaimo, Victoria or Vancouver. Winds are usually light and predominantly from the west-northwest, flowing somewhat parallel to the coast. Approximately 300 hours of sunlight can be expected for July. The average mean temperature is about 17 degrees Celsius. Sea fog develops frequently during July and August, and even into September.
Autumn marks the beginning of the wet season for the park. With increasing cloudcover blocking the sun, temperatures drop considerably. Strong and persistent southeasterly winds bring frequent and severe storms, typically followed by the passage of a coldfront.
Winter intensifies the wet autumn pattern. Average temperatures for the season range from a mean of 5 degrees Celsius to near freezing. Precipitation is heavy. During unusual typhoon-like storms, the community of Ucluelet has received as much as 49 cm of rain in one day! Although there can be occasional wet snowfalls, snow is infrequent along this coast. Several winters may pass without receiving any snow at all. Frost is experienced each winter, but it is seldom severe. Temperatures normally remain above freezing unless cold Arctic air moves in from the interior mountains. It is during these encroachments of cold air that frost occurs, along with clear skies and sunny conditions. Periods of sunshine are generally reduced and highly variable during the winter months.
By March, spring is clearly evident. Sometimes the coast is released from winter as early as February. Precipitation decreases and increased solar radiation causes temperatures to rise. Clouds dissipate and bright sunshine can prevail quite frequently. The incidence and severity of storms decrease as North Pacific weather patterns stabilize with the return of spring.
The west coast of Vancouver Island has been endowed with a dynamic and exciting climate. Its volatility and energy act as powerful attractants to the visitors of Pacific Rim. It has been humorously commented that it is one of those places which people go to because of the climate, but leave because of the weather!
For current local weather forecasts, updated twice daily, tune your car radio in the park to AM 1260.
Nearby Regions & Towns:
- Pacific Rim (West Coast)
- Pacific Rim Highway 4
- Barkley Sound
- Broken Group Islands
- Port Renfrew
- Port Alberni
Parks Canada – British Columbia
Box 129, 23433 Mavis Avenue
Fort Langley, BC