Currently in Toronto — February 27th, 2023

Snow, wind and then freezing rain

The weather, currently.

Here we snow again! Another Colorado Low is set to bring in a wintry mix for S. Ontario tomorrow. The timing on this next storm will be in the afternoon, so your Monday morning commute will be problem free for the GTA (at least where the weather is concerned). Expect a mix of sun and cloud early in the morning with wake-up temperature near -8°C, feeling like -14°C with the windchill. Clouds will continue to build in through the morning with some light snow developing after lunch. It will be a slow drive home with wide spread snow across the region and it will be windy too. An easterly wind of 40-60km/h. The high is 1°C. That is an important note here, with the temperatures above freezing we will see some ice pellets and freezing rain developing by late evening. A special weather statement has been issued for many areas in S. Ontario.

Monday night: Cloudy with periods of freezing rain changing to rain showers by dawn, as our temperature rises to 4°C.

Side Note: Although the freezing rain will not be as wide spread or last as long as our previous storm, the risk of power outages is once again likely, especially in portions of SW Ont. Freezing rain warnings may be issued.

Anwar Knight

What you need to know, currently.

This week, almost 1 million utility customers across Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, California, Oregon, Arizona and New York lost power. Minnesota shut down its legislature and several schools. More than 200 miles of highway between Arizona and New Mexico are closed due to wind gusts of 80 miles per hour. And, Los Angeles County had its first blizzard since 1989.

If you’re wondering why the United States was hit with harsher-than-normal winter storms this week—complete with heavy snowfall as well as travel and power-disrupting winds—it’s just the latest extreme weather that’s influenced by the warming Arctic and climate change.

The Arctic is warming about four times faster than the rest of planet, which destabalizes a high-altitude current of air, the jet stream. Usually, it stays circling the Arctic, containing its frigid air to that region. However, when it weakens, its pathway does, too. As it loses momentum, pockets of cold Siberian air can disrupt weather patterns in extreme ways.

The masses of freezing air that sits above the North Pole and Antarctica are called polar vortexes.

“The polar vortex is a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding both of the Earth’s poles,” according to the National Weather Service. “It ALWAYS exists near the poles, but weakens in summer and strengthens in winter. The term ‘vortex’ refers to the counter-clockwise flow of air that helps keep the colder air near the Poles.”

Though the term has become popular in recent years, it’s important to note that not every winter storm or extreme cold weather event is caused by a polar vortex. While climate change is indeed resulting in the breaks of Arctic air coming down the US and blizzard conditions, the brutal cold is not the polar vortex.

When the polar vortex is interrupted, it usually has mild consequences. But, some researchers have attributed the more extreme and moody swings in the jet stream to climate change. As a result, cold air is sent southward and is associated with big, radical, and oftentimes, unpredictable outbreaks of Arctic air in the United States. Parts of Europe and Asia also experience cold surges associated with the polar vortex.

Polar vortex or not, it’s important to be prepared—particularly for those who aren’t used to handling unpredictable winter storms like these. Make sure your home and car emergency kits are packed at the beginning of each winter season, so you can be safe from any kind of hazardous weather.

—Aarohi Sheth

What you can do, currently.

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