Calgary Climate

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Variability

  • Calgary nominally has a four-season climate. To that extent, Calgary is like most of the rest of Canada.
  • Where Calgary differs from many other parts of Canada is that Calgary can give you four seasons in one day -- very literally.
  • Calgary's high elevation means that its weather is strongly influenced by the mountains and can be quite unstable.
  • Calgary's weather is difficult to predict, and it is not uncommon for weather forecasts to be wrong.
  • Warm Chinook winds can raise the winter temperature by 30 degrees Celsius within an hour.
  • Just as it can be surprisingly warm in winter, Calgary also can be surprisingly cool in summer. Since weather statistics have been recorded, Calgary has experienced snow on every day of the year -- but not all in one year of course.
  • It should be noted, however, that the weather generally has been warmer since about 2000 or so. Long time residents of Calgary definitely have noticed that recent winters have been milder and snowier than past winters. (Colder weather is drier and less conducive to heavy snowfalls.)
  • Weather trends notwithstanding, Calgary still can get really cold weather, and one does need to be prepared for it.

Temperatures

You really need to look at these temperature statistics to understand how variable Calgary's weather can be.

Month Average daily high Average daily low Highest daily high Lowest daily low
March +4 deg C -7.8 deg C +22.8 deg C -37.2 deg C
July +22.9 deg C +9.4 deg C +36.1 deg C -0.6 deg C
September +17.6 deg C +4 deg C +33.3 deg C -13.3 deg C
December -1.3 deg C -13.4 deg C +19.5 deg C -42.8 deg C


If you want to find out temperatures for other months and precipitation statistics, please see Environment Canada's web page for Calgary International Airport.

Chinook winds

  • As already has been mentioned, warm Chinook winds can bring a few days of spring-like weather in the middle of winter.
  • Most people welcome the respite from winter weather.
  • There are a few people, however, who suffer from migraine headaches during Chinooks.

Snow

  • Because of the dry winter climate, Calgary gets relatively little snow. Most snow that falls is of the light, fluffy variety. However, with warming winter temperatures, Calgary is starting to see some dumps of wet, heavy snow throughout the winter, not just in late fall and early spring.
  • There is usually lots of snow for downhill skiing in the nearby Rocky Mountains. You can also ski at Canada Olympic Park, inside the city, due to snowmaking equipment there.

Weather anomalies

  • The dry climate notwithstanding, Calgary and surrounding areas can experience flooding. There was some flooding in June 2005, but the major flood in June 2013 made international headlines. In 2013, around 75,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Calgary and from the downtown core. Fortunately there was only one fatality. There are flood risk maps and information on the City of Calgary website. http://www.calgary.ca/UEP/Water/Pages/Flooding-and-sewer-back-ups/Before-flooding/Know-Your-Flood-Risk.aspx
  • Once in a while, Calgary also experiences hail storms that are severe enough to damage roofs and windows.

Insurance against weather events

  • You might want to read your home owner's insurance policy and consider paying extra to purchase protection against as many "Acts of God" as you can.

Effect of climate on vegetation

  • The Chinook winds limit the number of tree species that can survive in Calgary. When a Chinook brings higher temperatures, many tree species take it as a signal that spring has arrived, and the trees' sap starts running. Then, when the temperature plunges well below freezing a few days later, trees die. There are a few species of trees that can tolerate this "abuse," and those are the species that one can plant in one's yard (garden).
  • The effects of the Chinook as well as the relatively dry climate mean that Calgary is less wooded than many other Canadian cities.

Effect of climate on furniture

  • Occasionally solid wood furniture that has been moved from a humid climate to a dry one cracks after a year or so.
  • A crack can develop in furniture even if your house has a humidifier, as most Calgary houses do.
  • You can help to avoid cracks if you rub your furniture with flax seed oil (linseed oil) from time to time.

Effect of climate on people

  • Although the interiors of buildings are well heated, outdoor temperatures can get very low during Calgary's winters, and you do need to have proper outerwear. Please see the section entitled What to pack for a recce, which is part of the Wiki entitled, Calgary Recce Trip.
  • Your skin, particularly your lips, will feel very dry during Calgary's winter. Living in Calgary is all about moisturizer and lip balm. You may be interested in Dr. Jospeh Mercola's advice on avoiding dry skin in winter. Moisturizers and lip balms containing natural substances are available from health food stores, and limited ranges are available from some mainstream supermarkets as well.
  • If you are looking for conventional moisturizers, skin lotions and lip balms, they are widely available. George's Cream is popular with some Calgarians for dealing with dry and chapped skin; it was created by a local pharmacist. Because it is quite greasy and takes a long time to be absorbed, it is best to use it just before bed.
  • Calgary gets lots of bright, sunny weather. When the sun reflects off snow, it can be almost blinding. In Calgary, sunglasses are not just a fashion accessory; they are a necessity.

Advantages of Calgary's climate

Calgary's climate has several advantages.

  • As was mentioned earlier, Calgary enjoys a lot of sunshine, even in winter.
  • The Chinooks provide breaks from winter weather.
  • Calgary's high elevation means that it's unusual for the city to get unbearably hot weather in summer.
  • Because of the dry air, rust and mildew very rarely are problems.

Related Information

  • This is one of a series of BE Wiki articles about Calgary.