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Calgary is the largest city of the Canadian province of Alberta. Calgary is located some 80 km (50 miles) east of the Rocky Mountains in the Foothill region of southern Alberta. According to the city census of 2007 the population was just over one million people, making it the third largest city in Canada.

In recent years Calgary has experienced a rapid economic growth, fueled by the oil industry, and it has attracted a large influx of people from other parts of the country as well as overseas.

Despite its recent growth Cowtown still wears its western image with pride, culminating each summer in the Calgary Stampede festival. In 1988 Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics.


Calgary was established as a North-West Mounted Police post in 1875 under the name Fort Brisebois and was renamed Fort Calgary a year later. Connection to the Canadian Pacific Railway system in 1883 was the starting point for rapid growth and in 1886 Calgary was incorporated as a town and a decade later as a city.

The discovery of major deposits of oil in Alberta in 1947 was the start of an oil boom that, with interruptions, continues to this day. With the oil boom the population of Calgary grew from around half a million people in the 1970s to more than a million in 2007, according to the civic census. A decline in the price of oil in the 1980s meant a downturn for the city in economic terms, a trend that wasn't broken until the 1990s. The economic slump had the positive effect of forcing Calgary to diversify its economy, an endeavour helped by the hosting of the 1988 winter olympics.

Geography and climate

Calgary's land area of some 726 km2 rank the city among the largest in the country. Calgary sits in the Foothills region east of the Rocky Mountains where the Bow and Elbow rivers converge. Apart from these two rivers, Fish Creek also flows through the city, joining the Bow river at Fish Creek Provincial Park.

The official elevation of Calgary is 1.128 m above sea level[1] but varies significantly throughout the city. The Bow river for instance flows through the city at an elevation of roughly 1.060 m while Nose Hill rises to an elevation of 1.230 m.

There are two important boundaries in the immediate vicinity of Calgary. Geologically, the bedrock changes from sandstone and shale to dark-grey marine shale as the prairies morph into the foothills and the vegetation changes from fescue grasslands to aspen parklands on a line that runs north-south through the city


The climate in Calgary is extremely varied with cold and long winters and cool, short summers. Calgary's proximity to the Rocky Mountains as well as its high elevation contribute to this. Temperatures in winter regularly reach -30°C while summer days rarely exceed 30°C. Snowfall has been recorded in every month of the year but falls mainly in late winter and early spring while summer hail storms are not uncommon. Overall Calgary experiences a semi arid climate with the most precipitation falling from May through August. The city is among the sunniest of Canada with more than 2400 hours of sunshine on average per year.

One of the most dramatic climatic effects experienced in Calgary are the warm and dry Chinook winds that can cause the temperature to rise by up to 15°C in a matter of hours and has been known to melt snow on the ground in less than a day.