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So Very Continental

Scenic View of the MountainsFeatured QuizContinental climates are characteristically found in the centre of large continents, far from large bodies of water, such as the interior of Russia and the Sahara desert region of Africa. Alberta has this type of climate, even though it is relatively close to the Pacific Ocean. As the prevailing winds in this area are from the west, from the Pacific Ocean, it would seem that the climate of Alberta should be moist and mild. The most significant feature that causes the climate to be continental is the presence of the Rocky Mountains on the western border of the province. Alberta sits on the leeward side of the mountains. As a result, the air that reaches Alberta is generally much drier than the air over the interior of British Columbia, which is on the windward side of the mountains. As a result of the dryness, the air that reaches Alberta also lacks the buffering influence that British Columbia receives. Air masses also flow into the province from the north, up the Mackenzie River Valley from the Arctic. This air is cold, due to the lack of solar radiation in arctic regions. Cold air is not able to carry much moisture, so this air is very dry as well. This dry air covering Alberta is the principal cause of the other features of a continental climate that is seen in Alberta.

The distinguishing features of a continental climate are: low levels of precipitation, generally dry air covering the area, largely clear skies, seasonal temperature variation and daily temperature variation. All of these are features of the climate of Alberta.

Reprinted from Alberta Natural Regions Poster Series Manual with the permission of Alberta Community Development, Parks and Protected Areas.

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