July 15, 2014 6:40 pm
Updated: July 16, 2014 9:05 am

Polar vortex in summer? Not quite


Watch above: It’s been hot and dry in western Canada and unsettled in the East, while parts of the U.S. Midwest feel like a freezer. Robin Gill reports on this summer’s surge in extreme weather.

TORONTO – Remember the dreaded words “polar vortex“? Well, they’re making a comeback, but it’s not quite a repeat of last winter.

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Temperatures across Ontario are definitely below the daytime normals, but they’re not the frigid cold that we dealt with last winter. Nor are they even as far from normal as we may think.

READ MORE: Polar vortex – The unwanted winter guest who refuses to leave

Toronto’s normal daytime high for July 15 is 27 C. Today, the high reached 24 C. The normal low is 17 C, and the city will see a low of 13 C overnight.

But this isn’t something that’s uncommon.

“It is a kind of a polar vortex… But if the word ‘polar vortex’ hadn’t been used this past winter we wouldn’t be using the term,” said Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips. “It’s what we call a cold low. And it’s there almost every summer.

“I can’t remember a summer where it wasn’t. Maybe there was one or two.”

Phillips said that a polar vortex and cold low are similar in the way that polar means cold and a low is a spinning vortex. “But where the polar vortex…dominated the winter, this one won’t. This is going to last a day or two or three, where the one in the winter lasted months.”

WATCH: What is a polar vortex?

The polar vortex affected most of the country from Saskatchewan through to the east coast. This week’s cooler temperatures are only really affecting Winnipeg to Quebec City. This past Sunday, Winnipeg recorded the coldest temperature for July 13 at a high of just 15.7 C.

But in case you wanted to compare the intensity of the winter polar vortex with these cooler temperatures we’re seeing this week, let’s travel back to January.

The coldest day in Toronto that month was January 7, with a high of -17.3 C, and a low of -24.2. If you happened to be heading out the door to work around 7 a.m., you would have been greeted with a wind chill of almost -40 C.

And the entire month was only punctuated by seven days that didn’t have a minus sign in front of the temperature (though four more came very close). The mean temperature for January was -8.8 C; normally the mean is -4.5 C.

And it didn’t end there. February was equally cold as the frigid polar air refused to go back home to the Arctic.

WATCH: The polar vortex returns

Now, that’s a polar vortex.

But this week, we’re only seeing about three days that are below normal, with Tuesday looking like the coldest with a high of just 19 C. But by the end of a week, seasonal temperatures – maybe even higher – will return.

“I think [the term polar vortex] got airtime because of the winter one, and people think, ‘Oh my god, the polar vortex is back! This means that summer’s over!’ and yet we’re just at the halfway point,” Phillips said. “It’s an interlude, a respite. It’ll be back into the warm and muggy temperatures and people will be complaining about the heat and humidity.”

There’s a plus to no heat and humidity: not dreading outdoor activities.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Phillips believes that there’s no need to panic.

“It’s just part of the normal progression of weather that you sometimes see in the summertime.”

And if there is a plus side, just think of that hefty energy bill you likely saw this past winter. At least you can save on your air conditioning costs.

To get real-time weather for your area, download the Global News Skytracker weather app.

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