By Alan Smith, Meteorologist Posted 1 year ago June 21, 2023

Snow Blankets Parts of Alberta as Fire Situation Improves

Wildfires and unseasonably warm and dry conditions have been the theme across Alberta and the Canadian Rockies over the past several weeks. That is, until recently.

A deep and slow-moving trough of low pressure originating in the Gulf of Alaska took hold across Western North America from approximately June 17th-20th, resulting in significant moisture along with unseasonably cold temperatures.

The result was a late-season heavy snow event across the Canadian Rockies, including Jasper and Banff National Parks. The heaviest snow was reported around Jasper National Park.

Check out the wintry scene from Marmot Basin on Tuesday morning, just one day before the Summer Solstice! 

Photo Courtesy of Marmot Basin (

The snow resulted in travel issues throughout Jasper National Park on Tuesday morning, including road closures and inclement driving conditions at a time of year when summer tourism is picking up. 

Snow also fell at lower elevations in Jasper National Park, even in the Jasper townsite. The heavy, wet snow resulted in numerous downed trees and limbs as we are at a time of year when deciduous trees are leafed out. 

Snow in June is not uncommon across the higher elevations in the Canadian Rockies. In fact, snow can also fall in the Canadian Rockies in July and August. However, the amount of snow was impressive for this late in the season, as were the low snow levels that extended into the Jasper townsite.

What Does This Mean for Wildfire Activity in Alberta?

In addition to snow, heavy rain also fell over the course of a few days east of the Rockies. The recent moisture has helped to reduce wildfire activity across Alberta. This doesn't mean that fires couldn't flare back up again this summer, but conditions have certainly improved compared to recent weeks.

The town of Edson (population 8,374), located between Jasper and Edmonton, was evacuated twice this spring due to nearby wildfires before residents were allowed to return last week. From one extreme to the other, Edson has actually been dealing with flooding due to heavy rain from the recent storm system. 

Wildfire activity and intensity in May/June of 2023 have been much worse than usual across Alberta due to well-above-average temperatures and previously dry conditions, along with frequent wind events. Even though this season has been particularly bad, May is actually considered to be the climatological peak of wildfire season in Alberta.

The reason is that this is the time of year in which snow has typically melted outside of the higher terrain, but before vegetation has greened up for the summer. In other words, fuels are brown and dry at this time of year, and more susceptible to fire. Also, downslope Chinook wind events are more common during the spring months when the jet stream is stronger, compared to later in the summer.

The summer season from June to August is the wettest time of year in terms of average precipitation across the Canadian Rockies. Convective rain showers and thunderstorms are common at this time of year, and upslope winds blowing from the east are also more common compared to the winter months when strong westerly winds from the Pacific Ocean are typical.

The Continental Divide runs right along the BC/Alberta border, which has a significant influence on orographics in the region.

Of course, weather patterns fluctuate during the summer and every season is different. Periods of hot and dry weather do occur during the summer months, and these patterns can lead to flare-ups in fire activity. 

As you head further west away from the BC/Alberta rainfall, summer rainfall is a bit lower on average compared to the Canadian Rockies – especially the closer you get to the Pacific Ocean – and may be an area to keep an eye on for wildfires this summer.

We are currently heading into an El Nino phase, which according to Environment Canada, tips the odds in favor of hotter-than-average summer temperatures in the Canadian Rockies as well as BC, while there are no clear signals for above or below-average precipitation.

Upcoming Weather Pattern

In the near future, the Canadian Rockies will transition into a warmer pattern with more seasonal temperatures. Thanks to recent moisture and a reduction in fire/smoke activity, the upcoming period should be ideal for hiking and outdoor recreation. But afternoon showers and thunderstorms can still be expected from time to time.

10-Day and Hourly Forecast for Jasper Townsite:

10-Day and Hourly Forecast for Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park:

OpenSnow All-Access members can use our Forecast Anywhere feature to view weather forecasts for any location and elevation in the world this summer. By selecting the "Weather" tab, you can view daily and hourly forecasts for precipitation, lightning, temperature, wind, and cloud cover to help plan your outdoor adventures. 

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About The Author

Alan Smith


Alan Smith received a B.S. in Meteorology from Metropolitan State University of Denver and has been working in the private sector since 2013. When he’s not watching the weather from the office, Alan loves to spend time outdoors skiing, hiking, and mountain biking, and of course keeping an eye on the sky for weather changes while recreating.

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