Why early-season tornadoes in Alberta are more common than you think

“We typically associate tornadoes in July, and hot summer days, but they can happen on days like yesterday when there is more moisture in the air”

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Tornadoes in Alberta in June? It’s more common than you might think.

A tornado spotted near the village of Edberg on Monday — prompting Environment Canada to issue a watch for parts of east-central Alberta — certainly raised some concerns, but for it to happen this time of year isn’t out of the ordinary.

“It’s not necessarily uncommon at all,” said Alysa Pederson, warning preparedness meteorologist for the Meteorological Service of Canada, on Tuesday.

“If you look back to 2023, the first tornado in Alberta was May 11, and this year, the first tornado in Alberta was on April 29, just outside of Airdrie.”

Areas under Monday’s tornado watch included Leduc, Camrose, Wetaskwin, Tofield, Lloydminster, Vermillion, Wainwright and Provost. The watch was lifted by 7:30 p.m.

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When a low pressure system hits an area, it can cause thunderstorms, Pederson explained. Edmonton was hit with 30.7 mm of rain on Monday, which increased the potential for an extreme weather event.

“We typically associate tornadoes in July and hot summer days, but they can happen on days like yesterday when there is more moisture in the air,” Pederson said.

“When severe thunderstorms happen and the conditions are right, it can produce a tornado.”

Edmonton precipitation

Normal precipitation levels for Edmonton are 28.8 mm in April, 46.1 mm in May and 77.5 mm in June.

In April 2023, Edmonton only had 13.8 mm of rainfall while 36 mm fell that May.

There’s been quite an increase this year already with 20.3 mm falling in April and 58.5 mm in May. Through the first three days of June, Edmonton has already received 30.7 mm of rainfall.

“Our normal rainfall is 77.5 mm, so we’re basically a third of the way there, and we’re only past the third day of June, so we’re trending to be on the wetter side this month,” Pederson said.

Wildfires and weather

Last year, Alberta and British Columbia were hit hard with forest fires that wreaked havoc across both provinces. While it’s still tough to predict what type of weather Alberta will experience this summer, the outlook is different compared to this time in 2023.

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“Last year, at the beginning of May, we had temperatures hitting 30 C. Everything was dry and super hot, and we’ve had quite a big flip in the other direction,” Pederson said.

“We had some wildfires earlier last month, but that’s now under control, and we had quite a wet May. In Fort McMurray, for example, they had almost 200 per cent more rain fall than last year.”

Pederson believes residents living in northern and central Alberta likely won’t have to endure what they did with wildfires last summer.

“There’s a lot of things that can happen, especially across Western Canada. It’s really challenging to say how much precipitation there will be,” Pederson said.

“At this point, we’re looking at temperatures above normal, and precipitation levels are indicating that central and northern Alberta will be higher than last year.”

Rain across Alberta

Other areas of the province that received heavy amounts of rain included Lloydminster. The border city received 79.1 mm of rain, which was 177 per cent more rain than a normal month of May (usually 44.6 mm).

It was the fifth-wettest May on record for Fort Vermilion as the hamlet received 73 mm of rain, up 207 per cent from a normal month (35.3 mm).

Medicine Hat received 127.6 mm of rain, which is 291 per cent more rain than normally falls in May (43.8 mm). That marked the third-wettest May ever in Medicine Hat.

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