Eastern Canada plunges into deep freeze as roller coaster winter rolls on

Skaters out for the first day on the Rideau Canal Tuesday had to make sure they were prepared for the cold.

From snow storms to ice storms to blasts of otherworldly chills, to a touch of relief coming this weekend and then plunging back into the deep-freeze next week, the country seems locked into a 'roller-coaster' season this winter.

Temperatures throughout central and eastern Canada have dipped down into the -20s for today, with wind chills pushing down as low as -40 C, as the bitter Arctic chill that swept over the Prairies the past few days pushed further to the east. This comes just over a week after an ice storm swept through, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power, which was followed by a blast of freezing cold, a mild 'thaw' over the weekend, and then another dip into the freezer for the New Year. Wind chill warnings have been issued from southern Ontario through to the Maritimes, and parts of Nova Scotia are expected to see blizzard conditions tomorrow!

[ Related: Deep freeze extends from Winnipeg east to Maritimes ]

Residents of cities like Toronto, Hamilton and London have mostly been spared the exceptionally biting cold that areas to the north and east are seeing today, but the temperatures there are still colder than up in Canada's far north. By comparison, Toronto is seeing a temperature of -18 C this morning (-29 wind chill), whereas residents of Iqaluit, on Baffin Island, have -11 C (-17 wind chill) and Whitehorse is a 'balmy' -4 C (-10 wind chill). Cities like Ottawa and Montreal, with temperatures around -27 C, are as cold as Yellowknife (which is also seeing the dip in the roller coaster that the Prairies are experiencing).

Speaking of the Prairie provinces, although they were spared the ice storm last week, they're on the same (although generally colder) roller coaster the east has been on. Their latest plunge — the lowest yet this season — was so cold that the Manitoba Museum made a valid comparison to the temperatures that NASA's Curiosity rover has been measuring as it explores distant, freezing Mars. Now, the coaster is giving a little taste of almost spring-like weather to southern regions of Alberta, while taking Edmonton and the vicinity through a blast of freezing rain today. That warmth will bring a bit of relief to Saskatchewan and Manitoba into tomorrow and maybe Saturday, but the next plunge of the coaster will mean a return of the 'Martian' weather by Sunday.

The only areas of the country that seem to have pretty steady weather are British Columbia (mild and rainy/snowy) and the Northwest Territories (bitter cold!).

[ More Geekquinox: Frigid Winnipeg temperatures reach as cold as the planet Mars ]

When will the roller coaster end? When can we get off this crazy ride and try something else ... like maybe just sitting down to have a rest and a nice warm funnel cake?

According to the Weather Network's 14-day outlook, for most of the country, the roller coaster could end as early as next Friday. So we could continue on with a fairly persistently cold season after that, or we could be jumping on another roller coaster to carry us into February and beyond.

In any case, it certainly looks like we're getting the chilly Canadian winter this year that the experts promised us.

(Photo courtesy CBC)

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