What The Heck Is A Polar Vortex?

Cold weather and messy snowfall are par for the course with Canadian winters but they take on a greater sense of urgency when you toss in the words “polar vortex.”

The phenomenon happens when a low pressure system spins cold air in high altitudes over the Earth’s poles. When this spinning cold air gets agitated by factors like unseasonable warming it pushes this air into the lower atmosphere of other regions and you get a polar vortex.

Think of it as an arctic hurricane but for North America. That means Canadians can expect temperatures to dip to -20C and snow squalls to blanket regions, especially those by the Great Lakes.

A polar vortex in 2021 isn’t guaranteed, according to Environment Canada’s senior climatologist but forecasts show one could move south into Manitoba and east across Quebec and into the Maritimes at the end of January.