ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Weather systems during the winter months come in lots of shapes and sizes. One system that typically affects the Twin Tiers and the rest of New York State is an Alberta Clipper.

An Alberta Clipper is a type of low pressure system consisting of light snow showers and wind speeds up to 45 mph. The system begins developing in Alberta, Canada or any surrounding Province like Saskatchewan or Manitoba. The word “Clipper” is derived from 19th century vessels of the same name. These ships were known for their speeds, which is why Alberta Clippers have high wind speeds.

The clipper forms when warm winds blow into the Rocky Mountains from the Pacific Ocean. In the winter when it is cold, the warm winds interact with the cold air at the top of the Rockies. Low pressure forms as a result of the warm and cold air colliding with each other.

After its formation, the Alberta Clipper travels east out of the Rockies. While traveling eastward, the clipper gets caught in the jet stream, a region of very strong winds high up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The jet stream carries the clipper into the Midwest and Great Lakes.

If the clipper sustains itself before reaching the Northeast United States, lake effect snow showers can fall in New York State. Snow accumulations are light as winds blow the snow rapidly in the air and off the ground.

Check out the 18 Storm Team for updates on winter weather now and in the future.