Wet, chilly weather may have ruined spring, but it's looking up for Stampede, says climatologist

Since the first day of summer, Calgary has had thunderstorms, flash flooding and more than double the normal amount of precipitation. With Stampede just around the corner, some Calgarians are concerned.

Spinning 'roulette wheel' of cold air and precipitation parked over northern Prairies

The cold and rainy weather pattern will be here for at least a few more days, says climatologist David Phillips, but there's hope for summer weather next week. (John McDougall)

Since the first day of summer, there's been a nip in the air. Calgarians have seen just a couple of days with "seasonable" temperatures of 22 degrees.

To make matters worse, the city has been drenched in more than double the normal amount of precipitation for this time of year. Then last Thursday, severe thunderstorms caused flash flooding in intersections across Calgary.

Now, with the Stampede kicking off this week, Thursday's high is forecast at 12 C, warming up to just 16 for Friday's parade.

What's happening, Calgary?

"You know, you can take a picture of this seven-day forecast we've had, it's my definition of weather misery," climatologist David Phillips told the Calgary Eyeopener.

"It is just like a double whammy. It's not only wet, but it's cool. I mean, those temperatures, they'd be nice in April but not in July."

'Cold low' over northern Prairies

Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said the chilly air is a result of a weather feature called a cold low, currently parked over the northern Prairies, spinning like a roulette wheel and drawing in cold air from the north. The wheel is also bringing "feeds of moisture" from the Pacific and creating those dramatic weather changes.

"It's sort of like a roulette wheel because you can spin around, and you get a shot of sunshine and everybody is sort of seduced to get out there to the golf course or the picnic area. And then by the time you arrive, you're back into the cloud and the rain," Phillps said.

"So it's really a frustrating kind of thing. It's not a flooding kind of situation, but it's more of a psychological downer that you've been seeing."

Phillips said this wheel is what caused the wild weather swings from pleasant to stormy that we saw on Canada Day.

"Sometimes it gets locked in there. It's almost like a blocking situation, and nothing can kick it out," he said. "And it's really a spoiler. I mean, just really you hope that your vacation period isn't connected with that cold low, that spinning weather system that just won't leave. And that's what we're into. We've been that way since the last week."

So what about during Stampede?

Phillips said the weather should clear up into next week, but reminded Calgary Eyeopener host David Gray that Stampede conditions are often dramatic.

"I remember, it was three years ago, that was the wettest Stampede ever, and then the next year it was the driest ever," he said. "I mean, talk about weird, wild and wacky, it always seems to present some interesting weather. But I think that clearly the next week, in the midst of it, I think the best weather is going to be there."

Sunshine next week

Phillips said Calgary is in for at least a few more days of chilly temperatures and rain, but things should look up after that.

"I think the situation looks better as we get to this time next week. We see that ridge that I talked about moving over, and then we'll see several nice days without the rain, and some warm temperatures, and hopefully people will forget about this early summer misery."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.