The term polar vortex is being bantered around of late in anticipation of a cold front coming our way in a couple of weeks.  

When you speak with meteorologists, they tend to give a weary sigh when asked about the polar vortex because it is a term that has become overused and misused over the past few years. 

Environment Canada Meteorologist Kyle Fougere says, “I think a couple of years ago, there was a really cold event in the northeastern United States and people started to use the polar vortex term for times when it is really cold. It is not really that simple and what we are going to see in Alberta is not the polar vortex coming down.” 

The polar vortex is an air current that is high up in the atmosphere that sits over the poles and it is always there. When the vortex is strong, it keeps the arctic air in the Arctic. However, when it weakens, it allows the cold air at the surface to spread out of the Arctic. So, what Alberta is expected to see at the beginning of February is a high-pressure system, also known as the Siberian high-pressure system coming down to our area and it means the return of cold winter weather.

The bad news is, it could be colder than normal. Since we have been experiencing warmer-than-normal temperatures in January, colder than normal is going to feel very cold, but that cold is not called the polar vortex.  

Fougere says in the near future and into next week, we are going to continue to see temperatures that are above normal for this time of year. Typically, normal is a daytime high of minus 5 and an overnight low of minus 18.  

As far as precipitation is concerned, we have not had a lot since around Christmas but we are expected to receive some snow this weekend. Fougere says, “We aren’t expecting it to be particularly significant in the Cochrane area, right now it’s looking like probably two to four centimetres.” Skiers will be pleased to know that there could be more in the foothills and mountain parks.  

As with many things, there is a catch-22 with the weather. Fougere says, “People do really like these mild temperatures, but sometimes getting this colder air and some snow is better for the outdoor activities that we love so much in this province.” 

So, thanks to the polar vortex weakening we will see the return of winter in February which really should not be at all surprising.