Climate in Alberta
Alberta, as the fourth largest province in Canada, has a land area of 661,185 square kilometers. It is located between 45°N to 65°N and 105°E to 125°E. The altitude varies from 170 meters (above sea level) in the Wood Buffalo National Park in the northeast to as high as 3,747 meters (above sea level) in the Rocky Mountains along the southwestern border. This variation, as well as the variation in sea surface temperature of the Pacific Ocean, has a pronounced influence on the diversity of the climate.
For example, in the south-east region of Alberta, annual precipitation has ranged from a high of 689 mm (1927) to 186 mm (2001), the driest year on record. The flow of the South Saskatchewan River reflects that variability. No place else in Canada, and few places on earth, have this much variability in both climate and annual water balance.
Although most parts of Alberta could be classified as semi-arid, its climate varies considerably with daily mean temperatures in:
- January – ranging from −8 °C in the south, to −24 °C in the north (daily mean)
- July – ranging from 24 °C in the south, to 16 °C in the north (daily mean)
Arctic air masses in the winter can produce extreme minimum temperatures varying from -54 °C in northern Alberta to -46 °C in southern Alberta. However, in the summer, continental air masses produce maximum temperatures ranging from 32 °C in the mountains to over 40 °C in southern Alberta.
Annual precipitation ranges from 300 mm/year in the southeast to 450 mm/year in the north, except in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where rainfall can reach 600 mm/year.
The average annual precipitation across the province is 510 millimeters per year.
While precipitation in northern Alberta ranges from about 400 mm (northeast) to over 500 mm on the northwest, and precipitation in southern Alberta ranges from less than 350 mm (southeast) to about 450 mm.
The south and east-central portions are prone to drought-like conditions sometimes persisting for several years, although even these areas can receive heavy precipitation.