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The Climate of Alberta

View of the blue sky climateWhen the ice melted from Alberta and signaled the end of the last Ice Age over 10, 000 years ago, the landscape that remained was empty and lifeless. Today the glacial drift that covered the surface is largely hidden beneath thick, productive soils. On top of these soils are found the plant and animal species that combine to form the Natural Regions of Alberta. The climate that existed in Alberta at the end of the Ice Age evolved to become the one that exists today and is the single most important agent in the establishment of these natural regions.

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Angel Glacier in Jasper National ParkClimate is the summation of daily weather patterns over a long period of years in a given region. The elements of daily weather that are significant in determining the climate are temperature, wind, sunshine, and precipitation. A change in climate caused Alberta to be a desert at one time in its geologic history, and at another time to be a rain forest. It was the climate acting on the post-Ice Age landscape that resulted in the plants, animals, and soils that are now found. The regional differences in climate provided conditions for different soil types and a range of plant and animal species to inhabit specific "regions".  These "regions" are comprised of the six Natural Regions of Alberta, each defined on the basis of their physiography and biological characteristics.

Hoar Frosted Spruce BoughsWhile within Alberta there is a large variation in climate, generally Alberta is described as having a cool, continental climate. The coolness is largely a result of the latitude at which the province is found. Alberta is between the 49th and 60th parallels of latitude north of the equator. As a result the area receives considerably less solar radiation than the equatorial regions. The reduction in solar radiation results in average temperatures considerably lower than areas to the south. The temperature of some regions of the province can reach as high as plus forty degrees Celsius, and most areas have days of thirty degrees. These are isolated cases, however, only found in the months of June, July and August, when the levels of solar radiation are highest. Winter temperatures all over the province can drop to minus forty degrees Celsius. Overall, the temperatures in Alberta are described as cool and continental.

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

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