January 16, 2019 1:48 pm

Polar vortex splits into three, setting up Ontario and Quebec for -30C cold and a weekend storm

Jan. 6, 2014: Yet another new weather term to add to our vocabulary. So what is a polar vortex? Global's Chief Meteorologist Anthony Farnell answers that question.

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One polar vortex is chilling enough — but Central and Eastern Canada are set to feel the force of a single phenomenon that just split into three.

People living in Ontario and Quebec ought to brace for snow, and for temperatures to fall as low as -30 degrees Celsius this weekend, according to Global News chief meteorologist Anthony Farnell.

Temperatures could drop even more sharply in Quebec, falling as low as -35 degrees Celsius as you move north.

And that’s far from the end of it — a “very strong and sustainable cold period” could last throughout North America into early February, with conditions similar to the cold that people experienced in these provinces in the bitter winter of 2014/2015, Farnell added.

The frigid temperatures this weekend are just the beginning of what could be a brutally cold and stormy pattern for central and eastern Canada that will last several weeks.

The last time Central Canada saw the polar vortex set up around the great lakes was back in 2015.

Places like Toronto and Ottawa saw one of the coldest Februarys on record that year.

It’s too early to forecast that type of extreme just yet but if people like winter weather, they’re going to have more than their fair share with this pattern.

The trend comes after a polar vortex swirling around the Arctic broke apart and became three, unleashing what could be a “punishing winter pattern,” according to the Washington Post.

WATCH: Jan. 11, 2017 — Polar vortex grips the Prairies, wind chill near -50

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A “polar vortex” is a fast-moving flow of air that usually sits over the Arctic, but sometimes travels southward and brings cold air with it.

As illustrated in this animation by Zac Lawrence, a PhD candidate at New Mexico Tech University, the vortex split up in early January and is only now expected to send cold air flowing through Canada’s central and easternmost reaches.

A polar vortex is formed in the stratosphere, an atmospheric layer about 10 kilometres above the ground, as the Arctic grows colder, reported Popular Science.

There, it’s formed as a stronger variation in temperature grows between the North Pole and the equator.

Sometimes, warm winds can flow into the vortex and split it up, and this can result in colder temperatures in regions such as Eastern Canada. This is what’s known as a “sudden stratospheric warming.”

WATCH: Dec. 9, 2016 — Forecasters predict return of ‘polar vortex’ for northern US

With the vortex split, snow has been forecast in Ontario and Quebec this weekend, though the largest amounts are expected to fall east and south of the provinces, according to Farnell.

However, that could change if the storm tracks even slightly further north than it’s expected to.

As much as 15 centimetres of snow could drop on the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and more than 25 centimetres could hit the area between Hamilton and Niagara over the weekend.

All of that is expected to materialize starting on Saturday afternoon.

READ MORE: Global News meteorologist Anthony Farnell gives his winter forecast 2018/19

In Toronto, daytime temperatures are forecast to fall to -12 degrees Celsius on Sunday, dropping to -21 degrees Celsius at night.

Ottawa will see daytime temperatures falling as low as -16 degrees Celsius on Saturday, while on Sunday, they’re projected to hit -15 degrees Celsius during the day and -25 degrees Celsius after the sun goes down.

In Quebec, Montreal could see temperatures of anywhere between -16 and -22 degrees this weekend.

There’s a special weather statement in effect in la belle province, warning of flurries that could hit several regions.

The polar vortex is expected to foster especially frigid conditions in Kansas City, where the Chiefs play the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

There, an arctic blast could create temperatures of anywhere between -12 and -20 degrees Celsius, possibly making for the coldest game in the history of Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs’ home ground.

Both of those teams are used to cool temperatures, however.

The Chiefs managed to defeat the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday as snow fell over their hometown.

  • With files from The Associated Press

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