Calgary Weather: What’s A Chinook Arch?

Chinook Arch

[twitter]Calgary weather is pretty interesting. If you consider unpredictable and unreliable and impossible to forecast to be interesting.

It was sunny and 14 degrees yesterday, it will be -5 and snowing by the weekend. Sure, it’s spring, a season in flux, but it will snow any month of the year in Alberta.

The saving grace of the crazy, unpredictable weather in Calgary is the Chinook Arch. That dark line of cloud to the west against the mountains that means a soothing warm breeze is about to blow in and make everything better.

One of the most striking features of the chinook is the chinook arch, which is a band of stationary stratus clouds caused by air rippling over the mountains due to orographic lifting. To those unfamiliar with the chinook, the chinook arch may look like a threatening storm cloud at times. However, they rarely produce rain or snow. They can also create stunning sunrises and sunsets.

Orographic lift occurs when an air mass is forced from a low elevation to a higher elevation as it moves over rising terrain. As the air mass gains altitude it expands and cools adiabatically, which can raise the relative humidity to 100% and create clouds and, under the right conditions, precipitation.

I don’t fully understand it all either. Just know that it’s the Chinook that brings the warm weather (and crazy sinus headaches to those susceptible to migraines) to make any recent snow basically evaporate in hours.

And in a province that has had snow in every. single. month. of. the. calendar, that’s a good thing.

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