PDA

View Full Version : The seasons near Edmonton, Alberta



Katharine Tree
04-14-2016, 09:15 AM
I'm writing a historical novel set near Edmonton, Alberta (actually Fort Augustus Mark I, about thirty kilometers northeast of modern-day Edmonton) at the end of the 18th century. I can look up climate information to see precipitation and temperatures, but I wonder: can anyone tell me something more vivid about the seasons in that area?

Are there lots of insects in summer, and if so what kind? Does the Saskatchewan River freeze over completely, and if so when, and when does it break up? Does winter snow stay on the ground all winter, or does it often melt completely between snowfalls? What animals herald the beginnings of seasons? The ends of them? What do sunrises and sunsets look like?

And anything else you can think of. Thanks in advance!

cornflake
04-14-2016, 10:15 AM
I've only been there, not lived there, so take with a large salt lick.

I don't remember a big blackfly thing in the summer - I think that's more East Coast (I've never seen them in Van either), and/or rural - or possibly lower down, though again, I've not seen them in Van.

Summer is lovely. Often rainy (not giant thunderstorms, but like, nice summer rain/misty stuff), usually tops out in the low-mid-70sF; lots of days in the mid-60s to 70s.

There are places with snow but Edm., at least today, has actual summer. Not Phoenix summer or anything, but there's not going to be snow on the streets of Edmonton or closely surrounding (I've been from Calgary to Edm., incl. Red Deer and such) in like, July or anything.

In the Jasper/Banff area, you can run into patches of snow and ice, usually in the mtns but you don't have to go particularly high. Obviously there are areas high in the mtns you can ski in the summer, but that's true lots of places. The winter is colder, but it's not like Pluto cold in a general daily sense.

Remember the sunrise/set times. They have a lot of daylight in the summer, and a lot of no daylight in the winter, heh. Sunset is late in the summer, very early in the winter and you can see the Northern Lights sometimes. It's not the super bright, clear, banded stuff you'd see near the arctic circle, but you can see wavy green shimmery curtains in the distance, that sort of thing.

King Neptune
04-14-2016, 05:14 PM
I also have not lived there, but the Winters can be severe, but they have Chinook winds that are warm winds from the Wes that become warmer as they descend the mountains, and the Chinooks can put temperatures into the 60's in January and melt the snow.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinook_wind

CL Polk
04-14-2016, 06:11 PM
I have lived in edmonton for 8 years through the 80's while the oilers were winning all their stanley cups.

Edmonton DOES NOT HAVE CHINOOKS. Do not repeat this information. that's a southern alberta thing. Edmonton is too far away from the mountains to have this effect. it's also too far north.

Snow started falling in september and anyone who put their winter clothes away before Victoria day had to dig them out again. snow "sticks" from october to april-may.

The sun sets at about 11:30 pm and rises before 4 in the summer (daylight time). in winter, it's dark by 4pm and the sun's not really all the way up until 10am.

it rarely goes above 26 in summer. there's traditionally a week in april where everything's melted and it's nice out, but you don't want to plant anything until the 3rd week of may.

Edmonton is kind of consistently cold in winter. it gets cold, it stays cold. it can go to -40, but usually only for a week.

The N. Saskatchewan river did freeze all the way over in winter, but it wasn't skating rink flat. it's big blocks of ice and unsteady footing.

Edmonton gets the northern lights often enough that you only bother looking when it's something other than green, usually gold and rose.

the mosquitoes will eat you alive, but other places have it worse.

it's rare to see orange or red in the autumn leaf turning season. it's usually yellow.

also - None of this information is true of Edmonton today. It's warmer there now. I'm noticing it in Calgary too - trees are in bloom here, as of a few days ago. it's APRIL. This should not be happening until May.

KTC
04-14-2016, 06:21 PM
I was there about 4 years ago in May and almost went off the road during a crazy blinding snowstorm as I made my way back to the airport. It was bitter cold winter. I think unpredictable best describes Edmonton. I hate it there.

Katharine Tree
04-14-2016, 07:33 PM
Thanks so much to everyone who has answered! This has been extremely useful (esp. CL Polk, who confirmed my idea that there would be lots of mosquitoes in the summer).

blacbird
04-14-2016, 08:50 PM
Second the mosquito thing. In fact, just about everywhere in northern climes there tend to be lots of wetlands and bazoogles of voracious mosquitoes. I live in Alaska, and I know.

And the reason for the fall colors being dominated by yellow is that the predominant leafy trees in the region are birches, willows, poplars (cottonwoods) and aspens, all of which produce yellow leaves. Things like maples and oaks, famous for their fiery reds and oranges, are generally not native that far north.

caw

King Neptune
04-14-2016, 10:27 PM
I have lived in edmonton for 8 years through the 80's while the oilers were winning all their stanley cups.

Edmonton DOES NOT HAVE CHINOOKS. Do not repeat this information. that's a southern alberta thing. Edmonton is too far away from the mountains to have this effect. it's also too far north.


My brother who lived there for twenty years described the Chinooks and the disappearance of the snow from around his house.
"Edmonton rarely experiences Chinook winds" http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/11/11/chinook-winds-alberta-facts_n_4255651.html

"Based on the sample, we find that at Edmonton, and presumably throughout central Alberta, chinook winds cause above-freezing tmperatures on one day in three but on only one-third of these days does the surface temperature reach 40."
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00046973.1967.9676538


"Like Calgary, Edmonton also experiences chinook winds whereby the temperature in Winter increases rapidly for sometimes as short as a day to as long as a week."
http://www.expatforum.com/expats/canada-expat-forum-expats-living-canada/98069-tell-me-about-edmonton-alberta.html

CL Polk
04-15-2016, 12:09 AM
I've never experienced a chinook in Edmonton. it might "warm up" to 3 c and then plunge back down, but I have never experienced a day where I left the house in four layers and was sitting on a patio with my coat and sweater off in january four hours later. THAT is a chinook.

King Neptune
04-15-2016, 03:49 AM
I've never experienced a chinook in Edmonton. it might "warm up" to 3 c and then plunge back down, but I have never experienced a day where I left the house in four layers and was sitting on a patio with my coat and sweater off in january four hours later. THAT is a chinook.

I think that you have a definition of Chinook that is different from how meteorologists in the region use as a definition.

"Based on the sample, we find that at Edmonton, and presumably throughout central Alberta, chinook winds cause above-freezing temperatures on one day in three but on only one-third of these days does the surface temperature reach 40."
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/1...3.1967.9676538 (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00046973.1967.9676538)

jennontheisland
04-15-2016, 04:36 AM
I have lived in edmonton for 8 years through the 80's while the oilers were winning all their stanley cups.

Edmonton DOES NOT HAVE CHINOOKS. Do not repeat this information. that's a southern alberta thing. Edmonton is too far away from the mountains to have this effect. it's also too far north.

Snow started falling in september and anyone who put their winter clothes away before Victoria day had to dig them out again. snow "sticks" from october to april-may.

The sun sets at about 11:30 pm and rises before 4 in the summer (daylight time). in winter, it's dark by 4pm and the sun's not really all the way up until 10am.

it rarely goes above 26 in summer. there's traditionally a week in april where everything's melted and it's nice out, but you don't want to plant anything until the 3rd week of may.

Edmonton is kind of consistently cold in winter. it gets cold, it stays cold. it can go to -40, but usually only for a week.

The N. Saskatchewan river did freeze all the way over in winter, but it wasn't skating rink flat. it's big blocks of ice and unsteady footing.

Edmonton gets the northern lights often enough that you only bother looking when it's something other than green, usually gold and rose.

the mosquitoes will eat you alive, but other places have it worse.

it's rare to see orange or red in the autumn leaf turning season. it's usually yellow.

also - None of this information is true of Edmonton today. It's warmer there now. I'm noticing it in Calgary too - trees are in bloom here, as of a few days ago. it's APRIL. This should not be happening until May.

Yup. All this. I grew up in Calgary (late 70s to mid 90s), and Edmonchuck did NOT get chinooks. Meteorologists have their scientific definitions, yes, and I'm sure some of them have data that says it happened once or twice, but if you start telling people that there are chinooks in Edmonton, they're going to think you're either crazy or didn't do your research. Chinooks are the only reason any part of the prairies could possibly be tolerable in the winter. It's not tolerable in Edmonton. There are no chinooks. You can't see the mountains as well as you can from Calgary, and you need to be close to the mountains to get chinooks. Edmonton is too far from the mountains.

It's colder there in the summer, and the winter, and trees only turn yellow. Most trees in that area (including Calgary) are birch or poplar. They turn yellow, and dry to brown.

Animals that herald the season are geese. Canadian Geese, as they call the in the US. Squirrels were around year round, but with a lower population earlier in history that may not be the case and you could probably make a case for hibernation by them.

Days are short in the winter, like 6 hours of daylight short, but really long in the summer. (Now that I'm in California it seems odd that it's dark out at 10pm in the summer).

The thing I remember most about visits to Edmonton is the grey. It's grey there. No matter what time of year, it felt grey.

jennontheisland
04-15-2016, 04:49 AM
I think that you have a definition of Chinook that is different from how meteorologists in the region use as a definition.

"Based on the sample, we find that at Edmonton, and presumably throughout central Alberta, chinook winds cause above-freezing temperatures on one day in three but on only one-third of these days does the surface temperature reach 40."
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/1...3.1967.9676538 (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00046973.1967.9676538)

The part you quoted is claiming that any temp above freezing that is accompanied by a wind is a chinook. That's not accurate; chinooks are a specific type of wind accompanied by a specific cloud formation. This study also talks about chinooks causing increased temps in upper air iin Edmonton. Upper air is in the troposphere 10 km off the ground. When you look at the tables at the end of the report it shows Edmonton getting 9 events like this a year, but Calgary 27. The events have to occur often enough and with enough significance for them to impact the ground level air. They don't in Edmonton. It's just too far from the mountains and the chinook has lost too much heat by the time it hits the city for anyone to comment on it.

Besides which: at the end of the 18th century, I doubt anyone would be describing chinooks based on modern meteorological definitions. More likely they'd be using definitions and words from the Cree or Blackfoot in the area.

King Neptune
04-15-2016, 05:26 AM
The part you quoted is claiming that any temp above freezing that is accompanied by a wind is a chinook. That's not accurate; chinooks are a specific type of wind accompanied by a specific cloud formation. This study also talks about chinooks causing increased temps in upper air iin Edmonton. Upper air is in the troposphere 10 km off the ground. When you look at the tables at the end of the report it shows Edmonton getting 9 events like this a year, but Calgary 27. The events have to occur often enough and with enough significance for them to impact the ground level air. They don't in Edmonton. It's just too far from the mountains and the chinook has lost too much heat by the time it hits the city for anyone to comment on it.

I just take the facts as I find them.

CL Polk
04-15-2016, 07:32 AM
I will remind you that wanting to get actual experience of the area in question beyond meteorological tables and data was the reason for the thread in the first place.

You read a website. I breathed the air.

Katharine Tree
04-15-2016, 08:06 AM
Besides which: at the end of the 18th century, I doubt anyone would be describing chinooks based on modern meteorological definitions. More likely they'd be using definitions and words from the Cree or Blackfoot in the area.

I have Cree characters, and apparently they were not native to the area; they came from Saskatchewan and Ontario in the half-century beforehand due to a sudden drop in game population in their home territory. It's a significant part of my story that the Cree family doesn't have a large social network in the area.

I hope I'm getting that bit of history correct. Will be crossing my fingers for a sensitivity beta-reader, eventually.

blacbird
04-15-2016, 08:36 AM
Edmonton is a bit far from the mountains to be affected heavily or very often by Chinook winds. Meteorologists technically refer to these winds as "adiabatic". We here in Anchorage, Alaska, sitting right at the foot of mountains, get them with regularity, especially in fall and early spring. They can be quite violent; we've experienced 100+ MPH events many times at my house. And they are always unseasonably warm. They are generated in much the same way as the hot "Santa Ana" blasts that plague southern California. But they are a very specific kind of weather system, not just any old kind of warm wind.

caw

Yzorah
04-15-2016, 03:03 PM
I just take the facts as I find them.

I currently live in Calgary, and have had the experience of leaving town during a Chinook only to find that I was woefully under-dressed when we arrived in Edmonton. It's only about a three or four hour drive away, but it makes a huge difference.

On that particular trip, I think we went through two white-outs on the stretch of highway between Red Deer and Edmonton. Vivid memory because my father-in-law's driving makes me nervous at the *best* of times ;)

PastyAlien
04-15-2016, 07:17 PM
I'm from Calgary *waves to fellow Calgarians*, but hubby grew up in Edmonton, and confirms: no chinooks there. They may experience general, more gradual warming trends, but in Calgary, the temps often swing 20-30 C in a few hours when the chinooks roll in. So it can be -20 in the morning, and +5 in the afternoon. We have a saying in Calgary: if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes. Along with the chinooks come migraines.

The seasons change abruptly. In eastern Canada, temperatures cool gradually from fall to winter. In Alberta, it's summer, and then it's winter with just a whisper of fall in between (another reason we get mostly yellow fall foliage; the trees' ability to make red/orange is destroyed by early frosts). Although that is changing too, and now, with longer falls, I've seen more reds/oranges in our amur maples, mountain ashes, and cotoneasters. But birches, poplars, cottonwoods, green ash, aspens, apple trees, maydays, willows, etc., still all have only yellow fall foliage.

If the snow comes early (or late), before the trees have lost their leaves (or after they've gotten them), you can stand outside and hear the crack of tree limbs breaking throughout the morning, until the snow melts.

Sudden and violent hail-producing afternoon thunderstorms are common in summer. Also known as the great white combine, they can wipe out crops in a few minutes. Occasionally these storms produce tornadoes.

On really cold days (say, -25C or below), sound travels better farther, and traffic noise is louder. The snow squeaks. It makes for lousy snowballs.

Farm cats often lose their ear tips to the cold in winter. :(

Canada Geese leave in October, or stay year round. Chickadees, nuthatches, magpies, crows, Northern flickers, and sparrows stay year round. In spring and fall, we see migratory birds like woodpeckers, goldfinches, house finches. In August, we get the occasional hummingbird. Robins come in March and leave in October. In the dead of winter, flocks of redpolls come in from the arctic. Always amazing to see these tiny balls of feathers hang out at the bird feeders in forty below, chattering away. Huge flocks of Bohemian waxwings come in winter and strip the dried apples and berries from trees. Note this is in Calgary, about 300km south of Edmonton, but I suspect much is the same.

That's all I can think of for now!

jennontheisland
04-16-2016, 08:05 AM
Sudden and violent hail-producing afternoon thunderstorms are common in summer. Also known as the great white combine, they can wipe out crops in a few minutes. Occasionally these storms produce tornadoes.

I know everyone hates these because of hail damage to cars, but I loved them. And the electrical storms! Lighting. Just lightning. So much fun to watch them move across the horizon.

As for tornadoes, first one of the year has already happened:
http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/this-was-the-first-tornado-of-season-and-it-touched-down-just-east-of-calgary

L M Ashton
04-17-2016, 10:55 AM
I lived in Edmonton for ten years, 1984 to 1994. NO CHINOOKS. If you talk about chinooks in Edmonton, people who've lived there will think you're stupid. Actually, pretty much anyone who's lived anywhere in Alberta will think you're stupid.

"Farm cats often lose their ear tips to the cold in winter."

Not just farm cats. Any cats that spend a few hours outside in the winter. I had a couple of cats, indoor mostly, who lost bits of ear.

Edmonton is dry. Dry enough that, in the winter, my skin cracks and bleeds, particularly on my shins. I have to apply, twice daily, body butters or oils to prevent the worst of it. Not everyone experiences this, probably most don't to the extent that I do, but I sure do. And lips are frequently chapped far beyond what chapstick or the like can deal with. I use a LOT of moisturizers in the winter there.

Static cling is far worse in winter, especially with hair.

On the really cold days with wind, your characters will need to make sure they bundle up if they have to go out. Cover ears in several layers, a toque (knitted hat), mittens or gloves, scarf, heavy coat, sweaters, long johns, the whole nine yards. If they don't have to go out, they won't. You really don't want to get frostbite. You don't want to get close to frostbite - even that can hurt like you wouldn't believe as your various extremities warm up. Eyelashes can freeze together. Tears on your skin can freeze. Snot will freeze. If you're wearing a scarf over your mouth, you'll have simultaneously hot humid air breathing out plus ice forming on the scarf where you've exhaled. Doing anything strenuous can result in breathing in very dry cold air, and that can hurt hurt hurt. It feels a bit like a frozen asthma attack. Spit on the sidewalk, and it can be frozen before it reaches the ground.

Locks sometimes don't work in the winter. I treated my car locks and door locks with a carbon powder to lubricate the locks so they wouldn't get stuck. Can't use oil or anything or it'll freeze. Water in the locks will freeze.

Pipes can freeze in winter. The antidote to freezing pipes, besides insulating them, is to use the pipes every day. If you don't, freeze and burst. This may not be a problem for your characters - I don't know when water pipes showed up.

When we had storms that killed electricity/gas and therefore heat, everyone would gather in one room, bundled up, and with pretty much every quilt and blanket in the house to keep warm.

No shoes in the house. No winter boots in the house. Those get taken off at the door. Plus winter boots make a huge mess as the ice and snow melts, and no one wants to put up with that being tracked everywhere.

Winter is white - snow (at least when I lived there) stayed on the ground for the entire winter. Early spring is brown (melting snow makes good mud), then spring. Frequently enough, we'd get a massive very wet dump of snow late April to early May, right after all the trees started blooming, and of course that snow is very heavy and it would result in broken tree branches all over the place. And it made travel very nearly impossible. It's the worst kind of snow to clear.

Insects in summer - mainly mosquitoes in my experience. I only saw ants at parks, for example. Spiderwebs only in dark corners in the house in winter. Flies, not so much. Insects don't really survive as well in Edmonton. But mosquitoes - oh, the mosquitoes! Nasty eating hungry mosquitoes.

Electrical storms in Edmonton - yeah, they're actually pretty wussy compared to most other parts of the world. I used to love electrical storms, then I moved to Sri Lanka, where they really get electrical storms that are really loud and scary and wow, Edmonton electrical storms are not remotely in the same weight class.

jennontheisland
04-17-2016, 08:49 PM
Electrical storms in Edmonton - yeah, they're actually pretty wussy compared to most other parts of the world. I used to love electrical storms, then I moved to Sri Lanka, where they really get electrical storms that are really loud and scary and wow, Edmonton electrical storms are not remotely in the same weight class.
Well, now I have to go to Sri Lanka.

Xelebes
04-18-2016, 07:40 AM
Lived in Edmonton most of my life (only three years of my life spent elsewhere.)

Edmonton does get chinooks but it is especially rare. The chinook this far away from the mountains does not come as a giant arc of cloud strewn across the sky. Rather, the clouds come as tall galloping horses in the sky marching east. The temperature climbs but perhaps not as distinctly as it does south of here.

Winters today are not as they used to be. In the end of the 17th century, you are dealing with the bottom of the Little Ice Age so Edmonton's weather would not have been much different from say Saskatoon or Winnipeg. The river does freeze over so there would only be a skeleton crew in Fort Augustus if there was any. There likely wouldn't, given that Fort Augustus was not the regional capital back then. Cumberland House would have been the big centre there. Instead, the voyageurs would have decamped closer to Hudson Bay. If there was any action at Fort Augustus in the winter, it would likely be the Tsuut'ina and the Cree from Beaver Hills. Various other Na-Dene language groups are on the verge of collapse at this point so you would be dealing with increasing populations of Nakoda from the southeast and Cree from the east.

Pipon (winter) in the end of the seventeenth century would typically begin at the end of November and end in mid March. Mikiskāw (freeze-up) would have begun in early October. At that point, if the traders hadn't started packing up for their last trip home, they would be screwed. Miyoskamin (break-up) would pretty much end at the beginning of May, which would be when the first boats would be making their trip.

So your story is going to take place from the end of miyoskamin to the beginning of mikiskāw. If you are following trappers through pipon, you will be following your Cree trappers to the Beaver Hills to the east. Hills have the advantage of blocking the wind which is going to be the biggest hazard. Wind saps thermal energy quickly. Others have already remarked that you would need layers. Snow would be a greater factor back then than it would be today. Snowshoing would be more required for specific instances, especially after a snowstorm. Snow is a bit unpredictable here. You can get lots that can get up to your hip or you can get a very dry winter where the snow struggles to get past the ankles. Also, a concern is snowblindness in the open prairie. The sun on the snow would have been a common problem for those in the late 17th century.

Your characters will be likely taking on sīkwan, nipon and takwakin (spring, summer and fall, respectively.) The main threats are rain, thunderstorms, and bugs.

The main bugs:

Mosquitoes - lots of them. Lots of care is taken to smudging (by the trappers) to take care of them.
Horseflies - not as numerous but you have to watch out for them in the bluffs (thicket of trees.) They can take bites like blackflies but are not nearly so persistent.

Rain is as has been commented on.

Hope this helps.

Some added vocabulary:

Kīwatin - The North Wind. Very prominent wind in Cree mythology and is associated with the myths of the wihtigo. This would figure prominently in the story of Swift Runner if you set the story 80 years later.
Saskaniyotin - The South Wind. Generally a warm wind but can be a bit deceptive.

Words relating to the wind that crosses the longtitudes are not well identified in the Cree language or at least across the various dialects. West wind can be warm or it can be cold, depending on the weather that is coming in. The east wind is generally cold but not prohibitively. My grandmother (not Cree but a Welsh immigrant) generally associates the east wind as the wicked wind.

Katharine Tree
04-18-2016, 08:17 AM
Thanks so much, Xelebes. That was extremely informative. Are the season names you're using Cree?

My impression is that there were "wintering clerks" and engages at any established fort, and that so far from Grand Portage, pretty much everyone wintered. A new clerk on a five-year contract might not even get to go to Grand Portage in the summers; he'd just stay at the fort the whole five years. The timeline I've gleaned from my research is that you left Montreal at break-up, hit the jamboree at Grand Portage around midsummer, and if you were at a far-flung post--the Athabasca or these forts Alexander and Roderick Mackenzie set up after their arctic expeditions--you got to your post just as the aspens were turning yellow, not long before freeze-up.

It is part of my story that the fort is brand new--established just the winter before--and short on staff.

Am I completely off-base? It's hard to find information about these things. Often even the primary sources disagree about when a fort was built, never mind trying to find tallies of who was there and when.

And you mean eighteenth century, not seventeenth, right?

I did manage to dig up that information about the changing Native population in the area. The Cree were moving in because game populations collapsed in their traditional territory to the east. According to their own history they weren't in Alberta until mid or late seventeenth century (1600s). Does that sound right?

Xelebes
04-18-2016, 05:38 PM
And you mean eighteenth century, not seventeenth, right?

Correct.


I did manage to dig up that information about the changing Native population in the area. The Cree were moving in because game populations collapsed in their traditional territory to the east. According to their own history they weren't in Alberta until mid or late seventeenth century (1600s). Does that sound right?

Sounds about right. Though I would have figured that they would travelled west preceding the movement of the fur traders, and the fur traders following the Cree.

L M Ashton
04-19-2016, 08:05 AM
Well, now I have to go to Sri Lanka.

There are other places that have even more lightning strikes, such as central Africa. Take a look at a world lightning map like this one (http://geology.com/articles/lightning-map.shtml). Sri Lanka is not at the extreme end of things by any means.