Polar vortex sends coldest air of the season spiralling across Canada

Digital Writers
·3 min read
Polar vortex sends coldest air of the season spiralling across Canada
Polar vortex sends coldest air of the season spiralling across Canada

With winter around the corner, it was only a matter of time before the polar vortex made itself known in Canada. Its inaugural appearance will bring the coldest air of the season so far this week to many parts of Canada -- from the remote regions of the Northwest Territories down through central Quebec.

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What people may not realize is that the pool, or vortex, is always present. It is an area of low pressure in the upper levels of the atmosphere, which features the coldest area on the globe.

"Once in a while, we can get a lobe of this cold, Arctic air to detach from the overall upper-level feature and it can dig down into North America," says Weather Network meteorologist and Storm Hunter Jaclyn Whittal.

When this happens, we have typically encounter the coldest air of the season, but not always. This usually supports the development of storms, as well as heavy snowfall and extreme bitter wind chills. This is exactly what is happening this week in many parts of Canada.


The Arctic air is already in place and is bringing very cold temperatures, with daytime highs plunging into the -40s and -50s in Northern Canada including parts of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

"Dress warmly. Dress in layers that you can remove if you get too warm. The outer layer should be wind resistant," says Environment Canada.

As the week progresses, the cold air will start to shift eastward throughout, and by mid-week, parts of Eastern Canada will see the extreme cold.


Quebec has yet to see temperatures this cold so far this season. Cities like Montreal and Quebec City are expected to experience their most intense wind chills to date so far. Extreme cold warnings have been issued, warning of wind chill values near -40°C through Wednesday.

"Extreme cold puts everyone at risk. Risks are greater for young children, older adults, people with chronic illnesses, people working or exercising outdoors, and those without proper shelter," Environment Canada says in the extreme cold warning for Matagami.

Effects of the vortex will clip northern Ontario, as well, but it isn't expected to bring temperatures nearly as cold as Quebec or Northern Canada.

By Thursday, most of Canada will be entrenched in the chill, with below freezing temperatures across the country and frigid, downright dangerous wind chills in the North.


This month has been quite extreme for the Northwest Territories. The beginning of December saw record warmth for parts of the region, despite the notable fact there is no sunshine in Paulatuk during this time of the year.

Now, Yellowknife has begun a long stretch of extreme cold, which could be the first time in history the city has nine consecutive days of -30°C temperatures in December.


Multiple days of -30°C has occurred frequently, on five occasions where there has been five successive days with that temperature this month.

  • December 2019: Seven

  • December 2000: Eight

  • December 1984: Seven

  • December 1977: Six

  • December 1975: Six

We will soon find out if Yellowknife successfully finishes the forecast stretch of nine days.

Stay tuned to the Weather Network for the latest details on the Arctic air plunging across Canada this week.