What is a 'Saskatchewan Screamer'? Weather system is force behind fierce winter storm

·2 min read

It conjures up dark images straight out of a low-budget horror flick.

Or maybe it's the name of a wicked-fast roller coaster ride.

But the "Saskatchewan Screamer" behind the powerful storm hammering a good chunk of the nation Monday is a close relative of another more familiar (although not necessarily friendly) winter weather pattern: the Alberta Clipper.

A Saskatchewan screamer system is the same pattern as the Alberta Clipper, but it is born in Saskatchewan, a Canadian province east of Alberta.

An Alberta Clipper is a rapid-fire storm system that generates smaller amounts of snow, generally 1 to 3 inches, according to Accuweather, although higher amounts are possible.

Alberta Clippers are low-pressure systems that develop on the lee side – the side away from the wind – of the Canadian Rockies. They get caught up in the jet stream and travel southeastward into the northern Plains, move into the Great Lakes and eventually roll off the mid-Atlantic coast into the Atlantic Ocean, Accuweather says.

Bonny Obutu shovels snow off his sidewalk in West Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, after a winter storm dumped several inches of snow across central Iowa.
Bonny Obutu shovels snow off his sidewalk in West Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, after a winter storm dumped several inches of snow across central Iowa.

Clippers generally bring colder temperatures and often gusty winds along with the speedy burst of snow. The term "clipper" is said to originate from the clipper sailing ships in the 19th century because of their speed.

Clippers typically cause only light snow since they're what meteorologists call "moisture-starved." However, if conditions are favorable, some Alberta Clippers can rapidly intensify off the East Coast once the storm taps the relatively warm, moist air over the Atlantic Ocean.

Cities such as Minneapolis, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., are often the biggest cities to see this type of storm, according to the Vane, Gawker's weather website.

When the systems are spawned in Manitoba, they are sometimes referred to as "Manitoba Maulers."

The weekend "screamer" left over a foot of snow in Des Moines, Iowa. After rolling through parts of the Southeast, the system moved northward, creating a dangerous mix of snow, sleet, rain and wind up the Eastern Seaboard.

Contributing: Doyle Rice

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Saskatchewan Screamer? Fierce Canadian storm system explained