Calgary weather breaks 90-year-old record thanks to El Nino and chinook, says expert

Calgary broke a 90-year-old temperature record for the day. Meteorologist Dayna Vettese explains the forces at work.

Exact wind direction and magnitude can mean the difference between 7 and 18 degrees, says meteorologist

Calgary broke a 90-year-old temperature record for the day, but we'll need a perfect chinook if we want to break our all-time February record, according to one meteorologist. 

Temperatures in the city hit 15 C, edging above the 1926 record high of 14.4 for Feb. 9, according to Environment Canada's Kirk Torneby. 

This week's thermometer readings are getting a boost from a number of different factors, including El Nino, a chinook wind, and a nearby large ridge of high pressure that is allowing warm, moist Pacific air to blow into B.C. and continue through Alberta, said Weather Network meteorologist Dayna Vettese.

"Our all-time February record was actually almost 23 degrees back in 1992," she said in an interview with CBC's Calgary Eyeopener

While forecasts don't expect temperatures to climb into the 20s, it wouldn't be unheard of, especially because of how those temperatures get so warm, Vettese said. 

Exact direction of wind can mean all the difference

Southern Albertans will be familiar with chinook winds, which bring with them a welcome respite from the frigid winter airs. 

The chinooks rise over the western slopes of the Canadian Rockies and then heat up as they descend along the eastern side, blowing warmer gusts into the prairies. 

What maybe isn't as common knowledge is that the slightest difference in how those winds blow can translate to big differences in temperature readings, Vettese said. 

"The exact wind direction and the magnitude of those winds, how strong they are, can mean the difference between 7 degrees and 18 degrees," she said.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we do overachieve on temperatures, just because one nice, strong gust of wind, or one perfect wind direction and we can really boost those temperatures," Vettese said.

"We've had situations where we've jumped 10 degrees in an hour or two."

The weather pattern is not completely abnormal, Vettese said — in each of the last few Februaries, Calgary temperatures have climbed into the teens.

Vettese said above seasonal temperatures will continue through this week, and that backcountry enthusiasts should pay strong attention to avalanche reports, as these warm temperatures can destabilize the snow pack. 

Show us what you're doing to take advantage of the gorgeous weather. Tweet us your photos @CBCCalgary or e-mail us at


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