An Alberta clipper (also known as a Canadian Clipper) is a fast moving low pressure area which generally affects the central provinces of Canada and parts of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions of the United States. Most clippers occur between December and February, but can also occur occasionally in the month of November. Alberta clippers take their name from Alberta, Canada, the province from which they appear to descend, and from clipper ships of the 19th century, one of thefastest ships of that time.
Average trajectory of an Alberta Clipper
This is straight from my other friend, Wikipedia, who follows Google as my hero. With apologies to Jane. I would never call it a Canadian Clipper, or even a Canada Clipper. Actually, I like Alberta as a name. My friend Linda’s mother’s name is Alberta, and the clipper lives up to that name. Our Alberta ran a dairy farm in New York, raised kids, fed the hired hands and took over the family fertilizer business when necessary. Alberta is ninety five. She could do it all over again tomorrow, if asked.
As the Alberta clipper heads down to Ohio, it passes over several Great Lakes. By itself the clipper is not a great snow maker, perhaps a couple of inches. But over an open great lake, it picks up moisture. Over two or three great lakes it picks up a great deal of moisture. Lake Erie is the third great lake the clipper passes over on its way to my house, if that is it's destination.
Now I live on top of a ridge that marks the division between the Lake Erie watershed and the Ohio River watershed. The Cuyahoga River, two miles down the hill north and west of me, flows into Lake Erie. I remember learning in geography that it rains along the west coast because storms come off the Pacific Ocean, slam into the Cascade Mountains and drop all the rain on the west side. Great American Desert on the east side, broad brushing it.
That’s what happens here in northeastern Ohio. All that moisture hits the watershed ridge and drops as snow. And, where squalls persist, to quote one weatherman, even more snow. All accompanied by leaden grey skies and blustery winds. Akron, Ohio, ten miles south of us, may only get a dusting. Alberta hit the ridge and dumped the snow up here
Alberta Clippers mean take the kids to the bus in the morning, and maybe even wait there for them at night. They mean stay home if you don’t need to go out, stay warm, read a book or get out some sewing. They aren’t all that bad. And, they may be over for the winter. We’re half way through the month this week.