Clipper Snow

What's a Clipper snowstorm and how much snow do they bring? Meteorologist Josh Fitzpatrick has the details.

We weather folks love to give special names to different weather systems.  One blog reader, George, sent me a question recently: "What's a clipper storm?

Clipper storms are mostly known as Alberta Clippers and it's a fast moving low pressure area which generally affects the central provinces of Canada and parts of the Midwest and Great Lakes regions and Ohio Valley.  Most clippers occur between December and February.  Alberta Clippers take their name from Alberta, Canada, the province from which they appear to descend and from clipper ships of the 19th century one of the fastest ships of that time.

Since clippers come from Canada, a cold and dry place this time of year, they don't bring much moisture with them.  They do pick up some extra moisture from the Great Lakes as they clip along to the east or southeast. 

 

Most of our snowfalls here in our local area comes from these fast moving storm systems.  Generally they produce a 1" to 3" inch snow for the Ohio, Big Sandy and Kanawha Valleys.

Our big snow storms like the one in 1993, 1996 and the December 2009 snowstorm which shut down the WV. Turnpike, do not come from the northwest.  These storms come from the south where there's ample moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.  It's the southern storms and not the northern storms like the Clippers that bring us deep snows.

So over the next several weeks snow loves, watch the northern jet stream and southern jet stream closely, (jet stream is the fast moving air currents that steer our storm systems) if they meet up, a snowstorm is likely.

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