Calgary is well known for the Calgary Stampede, but the city is also known for the Chinooks that blow warm winds into it.
The word itself is said to be derived from a Native language where the meaning is “snow eater”. While they can occur year round, they are most noticeable and appreciated in the cold winter months.
Technically speaking, these warm winds are caused by moist weather patterns from the Pacific Coast where they start off cool as they climb the western side of the mountains and they warm rapidly as they descend on the eastern side.
This little known weather pattern happens in very few places in the world and south western Alberta happens to be one of them.
A common phrase in Calgary is “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes.” This phrase comes from the fact that these strong winds, sometimes at hurricane strength, can melt all the snow on the streets and has been known to increase the temperature by 30 degrees Celsius in an hour.
Although it is difficult to explain, and hard to understand if you have not experienced a Chinook, they are thoroughly enjoyed by Calgarians and provide a much needed break from winter and the cold weather.
An undeniable trait from these much appreciated warm winds is known as the Chinook Arch. This arch is due to the clouds that form as a result of the air flowing over the mountains.
These clouds cover the city like a blanket and only in the distance you can see clear sky.
There are several folklores that surround chinooks, like the one where a man comes to a church by horse. Only the steeple is sticking out from the snow.
He ties his horse to the steeple with the others and burrows his way into the church. A few hours later he comes out to find all the snow melted and the horses tied high up on the steeple!
The pictures speak volumes as to what this actually looks like. They are as unique as Calgary itself. They are part of what makes this city so special.