Friday, January 1, 2016

What is the sunniest location in British Columbia? Victoria

Victoria has a well-known reputation for having the mildest climate in Canada, but fewer people seem to be aware that it is also among Canada's sunniest cities, with an average annual 2,203 hours.  Sunshine was measured at Victoria Gonzales from 1914 to 1988, so this average was calculated based on the most recent 30-year period (1958-88) rather than the standard 30-year climate normal period (currently 1981-2010).

The Olympic Mountain rainshadow, discussed earlier for its impact on precipitation in Victora, also affects the amount of sunshine.  As winds flow down over the Olympics, the sinking air warms and dries, often resulting in a hole in the clouds.  In fact this is so prevalent that airplane pilots often use this "hole in the clouds" as part of the visual navigation in the region around Victoria.

Victoria is the sunniest city in B.C. and one of the sunniest cities in Canada.  Compared with 2,203 hours at Victoria Gonzales, the Victoria Airport averages 2,109 hours and Vancouver Airport gets 1938 hours.  People are often surprised that Victoria gets more annual sunshine than the "sunny Okanagan" and other spots in the B.C. interior, including Kelowna (1949 hours), Penticton (1923 hours), and Kamloops (2,080 hours).  Victoria also gets more sunshine than places like Toronto (2,066 hours), Montreal (2,051 hours).  In Canada, only Prairie cities like Calgary (2,396 hours) get more annual sunshine than Victoria.

Obviously, the  amount of sunshine varies throughout the year.  In part, this is due to the seasonal changes in day length: Victoria gets roughly 16 hours of daylight in late June, but only about half that amount in late December.  In addition, the percent of possible sunshine in Victoria varies significantly throughout the year.  In July, it's sunny in Victoria for 70% of daylight hours while in December it is only sunny for 24% of possible daylight hours.  As a result of these two factors, sunshine in Victoria ranges from an average 338 hours in July (nearly 11 hours per day on average) to just 63 hours in December (about two hours per day).  Late spring and summer tends to be very sunny in Victoria, and just four months - May, June, July, and August - account for 54% of Victoria's annual sunshine.  During the summer months, Victoria gets more sunshine than any other major city in Canada, including those on the Prairies.

On average, Victoria gets 317 days each year with  at least some measurable sunshine.  Not surprisingly, virtually every day in July -  30.3 out of 31 days - has measurable sunshine.  However, even in sometimes gloomy December, there is at least some sunshine on an average 20.5 out of 31 days.  On the flip side, Victoria gets just 48 days annually with no sunshine, compared with 76 days in Vancouver, 60 days in Toronto, and 32 days in Calgary.

The sunniest month on record at Victoria Gonzales was 426 hours in July 1985.  That works out to an average of nearly 14 hours of sunshine per day.  In July 2013, 432.8 hours of sunshine was recorded at the Victoria Airport - the sunniest month on record for any location in Canada (not including the Territories where northern locations can get 24 hours sunshine during the summer, resulting in very high monthly totals).  While sunshine was no longer being recorded at Victoria Gonzales in 2013, Gonzales on average gets about 6% more sunshine than the Airport, so there is a good chance that it received even more sunshine than the Airport site.  The least sunny month ever recorded at Victoria Gonzales was January 1982, with just 28.2 hours of sunshine - less than one hour per day.

The sunniest year on record in Victoria was 1951 when 2545 hours of sunshine were recorded, making it the sunniest year recorded for any location in B.C.  The least sunny year in Victoria was way back in 1914 with just 1948 hours of sunshine, but keep in mind that this is still more than the average annual sunshine in Vancouver.

Hours % possible Days with measurable
Jan 69.8 25.5% 21.3
Feb 97.9 34.1% 22.5
Mar 152.9 41.5% 27.9
Apr 195.7 47.8% 28.7
May 274.0 58.2% 29.9
Jun 281.9 58.6% 28.8
Jul 338.3 69.7% 30.3
Aug 294.3 66.2% 29.6
Sep 206.5 54.5% 28.2
Oct 145.9 43.4% 26.5
Nov 82.6 29.7% 22.6
Dec 63.2 24.3% 20.5
Annual 2202.9 46.3% 316.8


  1. Complete crap. All winter almost every day is completely or partially overcast and is grey and gloomy most days in winter. And it rains a lot in the winter. I live here I know.

    1. It sounds like complete crap. I have lots of family and friends there. And I grew up in the kootenays. I think Kelowna is way sunnier.

    2. Cranbrook bc is the sunniest city

    3. The numbers don't lie. All the statistics above are based on Environment Canada long-term weather records. Sorry that they don't match your impression of Victoria's climate.

  2. I'm looking to move back to bc from Ontario. I grew up in bc and I always thought Victoria and the coast were the worst for gloomy rainy days. This came as a surprise to me. I figured the okanagan or Columbia valley ( cranbrook area ) would be sunnier. Something doesn't sound right. Who wrote this. ?

    1. I'm not trying to sell Victoria. I'm just interested in weather statistics, and if you look at those statistics, Victoria gets more sunshine than places like the Okanagan. See the 30-year average statistics in the blog above. The numbers don't lie.

  3. Replies
    1. Cranbrook is a close second to Victoria, but if you compare Environment Canada sunshine data for the same time frame, Victoria comes out slightly ahead.

    2. If you look at Environment Canada 30-year averages, Victoria (2,193.3 annual hours) just edges out Cranbrook (2,190.5 hours).



  4. Been to Victoria 4 times (from Toronto) and even in early March it was mostly sunny.
    The long term data doesn't lie but Victoria's annual sunshine is so close to other BC interior cities that people assume that because they see cactus in the southern Okanagan that it must be more sunny there.

    1. We actually have prickly pear cactus on the drier parts of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands as well!

  5. Okanagan has more sun in summer months and also helps "contain" clouds in during winter months. Although usually just overcast and not snowing or raining. Helps create milder winters. But depressing Secrets of the valleys.

    1. The Okanagan doesn't get more sun in the summer than Victoria. Based on Environment Canada 30-year averages, Victoria averages 899 hours of sunshine during June, July, and August versus 824 hours in Kelowna and 805 hours in Penticton.