Clipped by the Alberta Clipper

January 29, 2016
Alberta Clipper

Here comes the cold as an Alberta clipper slams the Midwest.


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Are you cold yet? Frigid Arctic air finally arrived in the Midwest and East Coast.

For those of you who were wishing for a real winter, be careful what you wish for. Temperatures in Minnesota dropped to -29˚ degrees. Other Midwestern temperatures are theoretically warmer but with the wind chill factor, they range from -20˚ to -40˚F (- 29˚ to -40˚C for our Canadian readers).

The Alberta Clipper has arrived with a cargo of cold.

It’s odd to name a miserable weather event in the middle of the prairies after a boat, but when it was named, clipper ships were one of the fastest forms of travel at that time. These beautiful ships were named for speed, rushing through the ocean “at a fast clip.” Known for swiftness rather than size, they carried tea, spices, passengers, mail and other particularly profitable cargos.

Clipper seemed the ideal name for the fast windy storms that roared in from Canada and could cause temperatures to plunge overnight. Alberta clippers became notorious for their cargo of cold.

An Alberta Clipper is defined as a very fast moving low-pressure system born in that Canadian province. It then shoots southeast and slams the Midwest. This course keeps them hundreds of miles away from any moisture source, so typically they don’t deposit huge snowfalls just high wind and extreme cold.

This storm is further south than many, since less than 10% go south of the Great Lakes. It may start dry, but once it hits the lakes, it will carry a blizzard of “lake effect” snow east to the eastern Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states. Then, once it hits the relatively warm moist air over the Atlantic Ocean – look out!

According to experts, this is just the beginning. More storms should follow.

It’s strange. For such a friendly country, Canada can sure send us some horrible weather. We should be grateful, however, that this storm is coming from Alberta province. You should see the Alberta Clipper’s cousins—the Manitoba Maulers and Saskatchewan Screamers.

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.

Reader Comments

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Whats so significant about

Whats so significant about that arctic snap? It lasted for one week. This winter is a fake and a complete rip off. We have not had the least bit of snow here in the northeast, the warm weather wont leave us alone. February is looking like a nightmare for us winter lovers in the US. I cant believe Im saying this, but even last winter was better than this one!!! Im upset how this winter has let everybody down as meteorologists have promised we'd get more snow. So Im just going to call off winter now. February is all we have now, so its either this winter is a done or it comes back in full force

The winters have definitely

The winters have definitely been more warmer since i was a Child in Ky and here in Ohio where I have lived since 8 years old. I would like to know what we're in for in Feb. and March? Thank you.

Im looking foward to ONE more

Im looking foward to ONE more winter month.. Notice I said one more. Even us winter lovers get tired of winter when March comes in. I think most of us could agree, by March we're all ready to go outside and hear the birds chirp and even take a walk at the park with your family and friends on a pleasant early Spring day. A cool-mild afternoon sounds wonderful for early spring but this may actually be the year where March is filled with grey, cold and nasty conditions. Ironically though, we are still in a snow drought in PA but it is still the dead of winter. So how are things looking? an early spring? or 7 more weeks of winter?

I've been hearing the pattern

I've been hearing the pattern has now changed to where winter blasts will intrude the US during February. This winter is different from last. The back half of December and early January we had a taste of real winter, though we had a break in mid January but winter is back stronger than ever. For the second half of winter, could we see any Manatoba Maulers or Saskatchewan Screamers bringing powerful snowstorms to the Mid Atlantic US with more cold snaps? I take it we wont be sun bathing in March this year! Its so ironic how a cute little storm coming from Canada can do this!


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