Dramatic rise in temperature as powerful Chinook takes over southern Alberta

By Lara Fominoff @LaraFominoff on Twitter
January 29, 2018 - 2:12pm Updated: January 30, 2018 - 2:54pm

LETHBRIDGE - In just one hour this morning (Mon. Jan. 29), the temperature in Lethbridge rose 16 degrees, from minus nine degrees to plus seven degrees Celsius, thanks to a powerful Chinook surging through southern Alberta today.

While not quite as fast, Pincher Creek's temperature went from -13 degrees to plus four Celsius between 11 p.m. yesterday evening, and 1 a.m. this morning.

Environment Canada Senior Climatologist David Phillips says while we do experience on average about 35 Chinook days every year between November and March, they aren't always as spectacular as this one is.

"When you look at the winds, that also tells you. At 9 o'clock this morning, they were east northeast at six kmph. An hour later they were blowing west southwest at 45 kmph and the relative humidity had dropped from 80 per cent, to 57 per cent."

And Phillips recalls another Chinook that occurred in November 56 years ago that was even more incredible.

"One of the most famous that I remember back in 1962 where the temperature jumped about 22 degrees in one hour, but this morning, this is almost a text book classic example."

That same day Pincher Creek also jumped an incredible 41 degrees Celsius, from -19 degrees, to +22 degrees in just one hour.

Phillips says Chinooks also occur in other areas of the world, including the German Alps, where they're called Foehn winds and in the Andes where they're called Puelche winds. The occur when warm winds from the Pacific Ocean make their way across three mountain ranges losing more and more moisture along the way, but picking up speed and temperature.

"It's sort of like the idea of a bicycle pump and just pumping up your tires. You're compressing the air, you're squeezing the air. And if you feel that bicycle pump after a while, guess what? It actually has some temperature. It's warmed up. Same idea with the atmosphere."

And this weather phenomenon has been blamed for everything from higher divorce and suicide rates and increase in crime, to a plethora of health issues - like migraine headaches.

"It's almost like the full moon kind of thing that you often hear... there's something weird, wild and wacky happens when those winds, those mysterious winds blow. People love to explain odd things or misbehaviour or curious things by the weather."

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