What is an Alberta Clipper?

February 5, 2013; 8:59 AM ET
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If you've been on AccuWeather.com over the past few weeks, you've heard our meteorologists use the term "Alberta Clipper" used to describe a type of winter storm. But what exactly is an Alberta Clipper?

An Alberta Clipper is a storm system during the winter months that originates from the Canadian province of Alberta (or close by--sometimes the system can originate from Saskatchewan, Manitoba or even Montana). The term "clipper" originates from the clipper sailing ships because of their quick speeds. Thus, an Alberta Clipper is a quick-moving winter storm system originating from Alberta, Canada.

An Alberta Clipper, or clipper for short, is a low-pressure system that develops on the lee side of the Canadian Rockies (in Alberta), gets caught up in the jet stream and travels southeastward into the northern Plains, on through the Great Lakes and eventually off the mid-Atlantic coast into the Atlantic Ocean.

A clipper will usually bring smaller amounts of snow (generally 1-3 inches) because of its speed and lack of deep moisture, but higher amounts are certainly possible. Along with the quick burst of snow, a clipper generally brings colder temperatures and often times gusty winds.

Source: NOAA

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