Clipped by the Alberta Clipper

January 29, 2016
Alberta Clipper

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


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.