Lighting season is beginning in Alberta. Lighting, a phenomenon from clouds that have a lot of static electricity which happens when clouds rub up against each other, can also create thunder.
Static electricity can also happen when strong winds blow around the rain that is inside of the clouds. As the electrical charge grows and becomes more powerful, the rain in the air can act like a conductor, making it easier for lightning to disperse throughout the area and reach the sky.
Terry Lang, a Meteorologist from Environment and Climate Change Canada, says April can be a very volatile month for weather in the prairies as there's a lot of arctic air lurking from the north and warm air coming from over the mountains.
“It's usually a pretty slow start,” says Lang, “The temperatures are cold and the atmosphere has to be just right to produce thunderstorms. But we've already seen a number of little thunder showers make their way over the Rockies already.”
When lightning strikes an object, it can start a fire or cause extreme injury including death. The reason why lightning is so dangerous is because of how unpredictable it can be. Compared to other hazardous weather conditions, like tornados or floods, more people die from lightning. Statistics Canada says that between the years 1999 and 2018, Airdrie experienced 25,449 ground-to-cloud flashes.
Statistics Canada also reported a higher amount of lightning activity occurs over the Rocky Mountains, Foothills, and Swan Hills of Alberta.
When warm air and cold air clash together it can cause stormy weather, including snowstorms and thunderstorms. However, it’s not uncommon to have both snow and thunder on the same day in some places of southern Alberta, like Airdrie.
“It is really a roller coaster, in terms of what's going to happen,” says Lang.
The normal highs for this time of year are linked to the 30-year average, according to Lang, usually around plus eight for the afternoon and minus five overnight. The temperature throughout the week will be in the mid-teens but dropping down a bit over the weekend because of the weather system blowing in colder air.
“Just looking at what the atmosphere is doing, we can see there's some warmer air moving in and behind it there are weather systems that are moving through, bringing the temperature down.”
Environment and Climate Change Canada says this weekend's weather is unsettled because of the colder air coming through with the weather systems. Those weather systems have a good chance of bringing showers, or even flurries, to Airdrie.
“If it showers in southern Alberta, it's usually still snowing in the mountains.”
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