Rain, wind, and big surf. This isn’t your typical Canadian winter.
Here in the temperate coastal rainforest, the average winter temperature generally rises to around 8 degrees Celsius. Winter here means dramatic skies, rain (sometimes falling sideways), impressive swell…and bursts of sunshine. Storm watching season is as much about the weather as it is about how frequently and quickly it can change. All you have to do is be present to witness it.
What makes Tofino such a storm watching hot spot? One factor is our exposed coast, with no landmass between here and Japan. This places Tofino in the unique position of experiencing the wind that builds up over distance, giving us those beautifully bent krummholz-shaped trees along the coast and waves that will roll in at up to 20 feet in height.
Despite our water temperature getting no warmer than 15 degrees Celsius, the ocean releases heat and moisture. This moderates the temperature on our coast, keeping most of our winter days snowless. The interaction of this warm ocean air with the colder upper air masses “energizes” the lows. Our storms generally originate in the Aleutian Low, situated by the Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea by Alaska. As this low intensifies, what we get is rapidly falling pressures and strengthening winds. Add to that some intense rainfall, and you’ve got Tofino winter storm watching conditions.
Storm watching is a season, an activity and a passive pursuit simultaneously. This gives you license to enjoy it however you want! Here are some of our favourite ways to get in some Tofino storm watching:
And that’s just a headstart. It wouldn’t be fun if we revealed every storm watching spot, would it?
You hear the gales howling outside, see the waves rooster tailling, and want to get out there and up close. We get the excitement - and recommend these simple safety rules that all responsible westcoasters respect:
We’ve all seen great photos from this vantage point, but unless you possess superpowers and a desire to swim fully clothed in cold seas, we recommend staying well upland, beyond the reach of even the biggest rogue waves.
Stay dry-ish, stay safe, and enjoy your Tofino storm watching.