“On January 5, 2020, cold arctic air began flooding into the province from the north,” explains Ralph Wright, unit lead of the Agrometeorology Applications and Modelling Unit at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
“By January 12, the entire province was under the influence of an Arctic air mass, with more than 30% of the province’s meteorological stations reporting temperatures dipping to -40 C or lower during the period between January 13 and 15.”
“Finally by January 20, the cold spell was over,” he adds. “By January 21, the change was dramatic, with many areas ranging from town of Peace River all the way down to the U.S. border reporting daytime highs above the freezing mark.”
Lowest Recorded Temperature
He says that during the cold snap, most of the province north of Calgary experienced temperatures of ‑38 C or colder. Several areas from Red Deer all the way to High Level experience temperatures below -43 C.
“The lowest recorded temperature was -49.7 C on January 15 at Kakwa Auto, 30 km north of Grande Cache. Beginning on January 14, the station at Dapp - just north of Edmonton - recorded -47.7 C, with 39 hours during one 48 hour period experiencing below -40 C.”
The province of Alberta is no stranger to cold, with temperatures of well below -40 C plentiful throughout the meteorological record.
“For example,” he says, “looking back as far as 1961 for Red Deer, temperatures have dipped below -40 C in 7 of these years. In 1996 alone, there were 4 days in January that saw this kind of bitter cold.”
The lowest temperature ever recorded was at Fort Vermilion on February 3, 1911, when the temperatures dipped to -61.1 C.
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