Another blast of Arctic cold weather has descended upon central and northern Alberta, where people are experiencing wind chills of -40 C to -50.
Environment Canada on Monday afternoon issued an extreme cold warning for pretty much all of the province north of Red Deer. It continued into Tuesday.
“After a mild weekend, the Arctic has unleashed its fury on the Prairies once again with a substantial, but short-lived cooldown,” Global Edmonton chief meteorologist Jesse Beyer said Monday.
“After another round of light flurries Monday, an Arctic high will clear the sky overnight, bringing lows near -30 C and wind chills as low as -40 in Alberta.”
Environment Canada said extremely cold wind chill values near -40 are expected, and a few areas may also see wind chill values approach -50.
Eastern and northern parts of the province will likely see wind chill values near -40 again Tuesday night.
It’s the second time this month extreme cold warnings have been issued in the province.
Last week, there were two days of -18 to -20 C, followed by a warm-up to single minus-digits on the weekend, before temperatures began to drop again on Monday. Come Wednesday, it could be back up to as mild as -2 C, Environment Canada said.
Natalie Hasell, a warning preparedness meteorologist with the national weather agency, said while these temperature swings are noticeable — they are not out of the ordinary.
“This is not unusual at all. Yes, temperatures are varying hugely from compared to what we would consider seasonal — certainly -25 C is really cold and compared to normal, it’s very different. Minus two, however, is not that far from normal. Your seasonal temperature around this time of year is -4 C for a daytime high,” Hasell said.
“We’ll see a little bit more variability as the week goes on: colder-than-normal conditions kind of settling in starting on Friday,” she said on Tuesday.
“We’ll probably see these colder-than-normal or occasionally getting closer to normal — but not deep freeze as you are in now — for the rest of the month, or at least probably until Christmas.
“The huge upswing is basically between what you’re seeing today and what we’re expecting to see (Wednesday).”
Environment Canada issues extreme cold warnings when very cold temperatures or wind chill create an elevated risk to health such as frostbite and hypothermia.
Hasell said there are different criteria for what constitutes an emergency cold in each part of the country.
“We issue the extreme cold warnings in Alberta for temperatures or wind chills at -40 and it’s -40 for the entire province — which is different than a number of other places, not only in the country, but in the Prairies.”
When the wind chill approaches -40 or lower, Hasell said frostbite can set in on exposed skin in as little as five to 10 minutes.
“Yeah, -40 to -47 is considered a very high risk — exposed skin can freeze in five to 10 minutes.
“So the amount of time you might be outside waiting for a bus.”
If it’s too cold for you to stay outside, it’s too cold for your pet to stay outside, Environment Canada said.
Risks are greater for young children, older adults, people with chronic illnesses, people working or exercising outdoors and those without proper shelter.
“We issue these warnings because there’s a hazard and people could suffer quite significantly,” Hasell said.
When going outside, wear layers and protect exposed skin with gloves, a toque and a scarf.
Boots should be waterproof, and it’s recommended that people wear two or three layers of pants and shirts.
Last week, the City of Edmonton activated its extreme weather response to keep vulnerable Edmontonians safe during the cold snap. It’s expected to remain in place until Thursday, Dec. 8, at 8 a.m., however, if conditions remain extremely cold beyond that time frame, the response will be extended.
The response is triggered when the wind chill makes temperatures feel like -20 for at least three consecutive nights and shelter utilization rates are over 90 per cent.