Howe Sound Weather is different from Vancouver

It is a 23-minute drive along the Upper Level Highway from downtown Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay in Howe Sound. Eagle Ridge is at the top of the hill just before Horseshoe Bay, where the road turns from west — facing the towers of Mt. Arrowsmith on Vancouver Island, to north and the peaks of the Tantalus Mountains. This is the entrance to Howe Sound and the gateway to Squamish and Whistler. Sometimes that turn reveals a different world. [click the title if you cannot see the rest of this article… ]

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I remember the first time I drove that road, in October or November of 1989. That autumn I thought I’d left winter behind, on the prairies.

Suddenly, there beyond the Sound, was a row of high jagged mountains, brilliant with fresh snow in the morning sunlight. I didn’t know then how many of my adventures would begin by driving to a trail-head (or a place where there was no trail) somewhere in the land of those dramatic hills.

Today, on Bowen it is a mild, sunny, December day. The snow of last week is long gone. Checking the temperature at Pam Rocks — an automatic weather station in the middle of Howe Sound, I can see that the temperature is 2º C (36º F). Nice. I may go for a walk on Bowen today.

This is what I find fascinating: at the airport (YVR) the temperature is -4º C, and has been dropping from 0º C since 10 PM last night. Today it is warmer in the Sound than in the rest of the Lower Mainland.

Often it is the other way around.

When the snow on Bowen Island began to fall in earnest last week, I called members of my family who were in Vancouver, to suggest that they head home or I might not be able to drive on the island hills to pick them up at the ferry. “Really? There is no snow falling in Vancouver.”

I remember a night a few years back when there was a mighty gale blowing down the Sound, and BC Ferries decided to keep their boat safely tied up at the terminal. When I arrived in Horseshoe Bay to take the ferry home I saw the violence and tasted the salt in the air. I was stuck on the mainland. When I drove to Dundarave, in nearby West Vancouver, to telephone a friend to say I was his house-guest for the night, there wasn’t even a breeze.

Last Monday the station at Pam Rocks reported a strange story. Between 1 AM and 8 AM the temperature gradually rose from 1º C to 4º C. At 9 AM the temperature had shot up to 12º C.

Over at the airport there was an constant increase in the temperature from 1º C at 8 PM to 10º C at 8 AM.

Was the temperature gauge at Pam Rock stuck?

No. All night Pam Rocks reported winds from the North or North-North-East 45 to 60 Km/h with gusts to 70 Km/h. Suddenly, the 9 AM report showed the wind was from the South at 37 Km/h with gusts to 69 Km/h.

I interpret this to mean that as long as the wind into Howe Sound was flowing down from the interior mountains to the north, the air was cold. When the wind shifted 180º to the south we were receiving a balmy breeze off the Pacific Ocean and the temperature shot up.

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1 Response to “Howe Sound Weather is different from Vancouver”


  1. 1 Dona December 10, 2007 at 11:29 am

    Don’t we live in a fascinating place! The boundary between sea and land, mountain and ocean, and the confluence of Howe Sound and Georgia Strait. Dramatic and unpredictible!


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