‘An atmospheric gift’: High-pressure system brings unseasonably warm temperatures to Alberta

Albertans feeling cooped up by COVID-19, can take solace in some winter sunbathing.

A high-pressure system hovering over western Canada means the forecast across the province for the week ahead is downright balmy. 

By the weekend, most Alberta communities will hit double-digit highs. And the unseasonably mild temperatures will be accompanied by sunny, cloud-free skies, perfect for working on your tuque tan.

A high of 10 C is expected in Edmonton on Sunday. Calgary will be even milder with a high of 17 C expected by Monday afternoon.  Even northern communities like Fort McMurray will get a taste with a long-term forecast free of any icy windchill. 

“This is almost tropical in a way,” said Dave Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada. “It’s clearly an atmospheric gift. You don’t expect weather like this.” 

The temperatures started to thaw over the weekend, melting mountainous snow banks, turning roads into skating rinks and giving sun-loving Albertans a welcome reprieve from winter temperatures. 

The province is being temporarily shielded from the cold by a massive flow of pressurized, sinking air, Phillips said. 

“It’s like putting a dome over the Prairies and it doesn’t allow any kind of weather to get in,” he said.

“You’re squeezing in all those air molecules; they’re jiggling and jaggling and creating all kinds of heat. And this is what makes it so, so unseasonably mild.

“And it doesn’t matter where you are. It’s not just that Edmonton’s getting all the good weather. The entire region is getting this gorgeous kind of weather.” 

‘Sweater weather’

The temperatures expected are about 10 to 15 degrees warmer than average for this time of year, Phillips said. He said some temperature records could be broken but the most notable thing about this mild stint of weather is its duration. 

The balmy temperatures are expected to stick around for more than a week. 

“One- or two-day wonders are usually in the offing, but not a whole week or even longer with wall-to-wall sunshine, no weather to get in the way,” Phillips said. 

“I mean, it’s going to be well, not muscle shirts and tank tops, but hey, you’ll be changing.

“It’ll be going to sweater weather rather than leather weather.” 

After a frigid fall marked by the stress of the pandemic, the balmy forecast is likely a welcome weather anomaly, Phillips said. 

He said temperatures will begin to cool off next week but the current forecast could be a tiding of things to come. 

“I mean, we’ve never canceled winter in Alberta and we’re not going to this year, but we certainly think that December looks milder than normal. 

“And you know, when you can claim that winter is maybe only three months long instead of five months long, you’re already ahead of the game.”

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