Prepare yourself, Alberta — winter weather is returning.
After a relatively balmy start to 2023 and more recently, more than a week of above-zero temperatures, Old Man Winter is about to plunge the province back into a deep freeze.
A polar vortex is expanding from the Arctic and will bring a much colder air mass south, starting overnight Thursday into Friday and continuing into the weekend.
“We have been above 0 C, for the past eight days in a row, but highs are expected to be over 20 C colder by the weekend as we drop well into the minus side double digits for nearly a week,” said Global Edmonton meteorologist Jesse Beyer.
A polar vortex is a mass of freezing air that exists all year long and typically spins clockwise over the North Pole. When it weakens, the circulation can be disrupted and split — sending a section south to spread frigid temperatures over parts of North America.
After a cold December, the Edmonton area has been spoiled so far this year with only one day below average in the first 26 days of January.
On Thursday evening, parts of northern Alberta were already seeing minus double digits.
Beyer said the significant wind chills will be returning to the Edmonton area beginning overnight Thursday and into Friday. The change in weather will also bring with it some snow.
“We are also likely to pick up 2 to 5 centimetres of snow in our city as the cold air makes its migration south,” Beyer said.
Environment Canada said on Friday in Edmonton, the temperature will fall to around – 11 C in the afternoon. With the wind chill, it will feel like -7 in the morning and -19 in the afternoon.
Overnight Friday into Saturday, the weather agency said the wind chill will make it feel close to -30 and there will be a risk of frostbite.
In Edmonton, city officials announced Friday morning that the city had activated its “extreme weather response” protocols which are aimed at keeping vulnerable Edmontonians safe and warm during the cold snap.
The city said the response was activated at 9 a.m. and would remain in place until 6 a.m. on Feb. 4. For more details, click here.
The cold air will also sweep across southern Alberta and the Calgary area.
“Saturday and Sunday is when that colder air will arrive with highs in the minus teens and wind chills in the minus 20s,” said Global Calgary meteorologist Danielle Savoni.
“Because of our current warm air mass, it will help regulate the polar air as it moves in.
“So it will cool down a lot, but cold temperatures we are used to seeing in Calgary in late January!”
Beyer said the cold snap will linger into next week, but temperatures could get closer to average by the end of next week.
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