Landscape

At more than 660,000 square kilometres (255,000 square miles), Alberta is roughly twice the size of Japan and stretches from the 49th to 60th parallels.  It is more than 600 kilometres (380 miles) from west to east and more than 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) from north to south.

At 51 degrees of latitude, Calgary is at the same latitude as London, England. Edmonton, at 53 degrees latitude north, is at the same latitude as Hamburg, Germany.

Alberta shares borders with British Columbia to the west, the Northwest Territories to the north, Saskatchewan to the east and the American state of Montana to the south.

The Rocky Mountains run down the southwestern edge of the province and are home to massive icefields that supply water to a large portion of Canada.

The mountains give way to foothills and then to prairie.

The southeastern part of the province is grassland, including the dry and sparse badlands where many fossils have been found.

Most of the northern half of the province is covered by aspen and spruce boreal forest (also known as northern forest) which is different from the subalpine and montane forests found further south. The north also has many wetland areas.

The northeastern corner of the province is part of the vast Canadian Shield, with outcrops of some of the oldest rock on earth, wind-blown pines and vast sand dunes.

Land types in Alberta keyLand types in Alberta pie chart

Water features

There are 600 lakes and 245 rivers in Alberta. There are seven major river basins in the province: the Peace/Slave, Athabasca, Beaver, North Saskatchewan, South Saskatchewan and Milk River basins.

From Mount Athabasca on the Icefields Parkway that links Jasper National Park with Banff National Park, water can flow on the western slope to the Pacific Ocean, the Arctic Ocean on the northeast and the Atlantic Ocean on the southeast, making this glaciated area very important for North America’s water supply.

Chinook winds

The southern part of the province experiences Chinook winds, which are warm dry winds coming down from the mountains. In the winter they can drastically increase the temperature for a few hours or even days by up to 40 degrees Celsius. They are most common in a belt around Pincher Creek, Crowsnest Pass and Lethbridge but Calgary experiences them fairly often and they reach as far north as Red Deer. Grand Prairie can also experience them occasionally.