Siberia was blasted with the world’s coldest temperatures so far this year thanks to a polar vortex, and that chill could be making its way to Canada in February.
Environment and Climate Change Canada’s senior meteorologist David Phillips says they’re forecasting colder-than-normal temperatures for the month of February in BC, all of the Prairies, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and in small parts of Ontario.
He adds that weather will continue to remain warmer than usual in Southern Ontario and Atlantic Canada as the polar vortex peters out by the time it reaches the east.
“[The polar vortex] is coming right from Siberia where it’s very cold, coldest moments in decades,” Phillips told Daily Hive over the phone.
“It’s on the move… and winter will come back in a gusto for the West in terms of the cold.”
Tongulakh, Siberia, recorded out-of-this-world temperatures on January 14, at a bone-chilling -62.4°C.
It broke all kinds of records, becoming Earth’s coldest temperature recorded in 2023 and the coldest temperature Russia has experienced in over two decades, according to The Weather Network.
To put this into perspective, that temperature is just 0.3°C away from the average temperature on Mars. If your skin is exposed in these conditions, it would freeze in seconds.
What is a polar vortex?
According to Phillips, Canada experiences a polar vortex about six or seven times every decade.
One already hit Alberta in December, and you may remember Ontario’s 2014 polar vortex, which left cities like Toronto transformed into icy wonderlands.
“The polar vortex is always there. It never leaves. It’s even there in the summertime,” explained Phillips.
“But it stays home up in the high Arctic right over the North Pole and spins around like a top… It sort of contains all of its cold air and wintry-like conditions right in that circular motion.”
He says in the summer it gets smaller and in the winter it tends to get bigger.
It moves from its position in the Arctic when it gets nudged or agitated by other weather systems in the stratosphere, adds Phillips.
“It’s sort of like a spinning top and when you touch a spinning top all of a sudden, it moves off its circular motion, it kind of loops and it kind of wobbles and it slows down and it moves from where it was stationary to somewhere else,” he explained.
What temperatures can Canadians expect?
Phillips says the polar vortex will bring frigid temperatures and brutal wind chills with it, but that Canadians won’t be experiencing Mars-like cold.
He says the country’s coldest temperatures tend to dip down to -50°C at most.
“Typically what we see with the polar vortex are temperatures that are about 20 degrees colder than they should be for that time of the year,” explained Phillips.
He gives Yellowknife as an example. Next week, it’ll be -22°C in the capital city of the Northwest Territories, so Phillips says their temperatures could drop down to -36°C to -40°C during a polar vortex.
With an arctic chill coming our way, here’s a handy guide to signs of frostbite and hypothermia you might not recognize.