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Calgary: snow in May normal?


Around 5 cm of snow fell in downtown Calgary on Saturday.
Around 5 cm of snow fell in downtown Calgary on Saturday.

Daniel Martins, staff writer

May 7, 2012 — Parts of Alberta got as much snow Saturday as is normal for the entire month of May, but it's not the start of a new trend.

Don't expect an extended winter sport season in Calgary. They city's weather is notoriously unpredictable.
Don't expect an extended winter sport season in Calgary. They city's weather is notoriously unpredictable.

If you live in southern Alberta, and you were looking up in disbelief as the snow came down Saturday, don't worry: Meteorologists weren't expecting that much snow either.

"Everybody was surprised," says Brian Dillon, a meteorologist with The Weather Network.

Dillon says northeasterly winds and a low pressure system forming east of the Rocky Mountains brought cooler air to Calgary.

"Temperatures dropped cooler than expected, and the moisture never started as rain. It always was snow," he says.

Calgary normally sees around 10 cm of snow for the entire month of May.

Around 5 cm fell in downtown Calgary Saturday, with the airport reporting up to three centimetres.

Communities around the city got even more, with Airdrie and Okotoks reporting 10 cm. to the east, and at a higher elevation, Cypress Hills provincial park got as much as 20 cm.

The snowfall amounts were higher than the expected trace to 3 cm, but Dillon says Calgary weather is notoriously difficult to predict.

"Calgary is Calgary," he said. "It's just like Denver, where one day is 25C, and the next day it's snowing outside, and the next day after that it's snowing again. It really just depends on temperature and the elevation."

That same unpredictability is why Dillon says you needn't worry that Saturday's snow is the new normal for May.

In fact, the amounts don't even come close to the historical records. Calgary has historically seen more than 40 cm fall on severals days in May, most recently on May 6, 1981, when 48.4 cm fell on the city.

"Just a fluke," Dillon says. "Because by yesterday, all the snow that had fell on Saturday had melted. It got up to 15 degrees."

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