The Polar Vortex, a.k.a. Winter in Canada

For much of January, the world has been hearing about the weather phenomenon known as the polar vortex, which has encased North America in unusually frigid temperatures.  Just what is a polar vortex, you might ask.  Here’s a very good description from our very own CTV:

A polar vortex is a large, frigid air mass located near the Earth’s geographical poles. The vortex is continually circulating a pool of cold air in a counter-clockwise direction. As the air is being circulated in place, it grows colder and denser.  On Earth, the vortex hovers around the Arctic, with two centres: one near Canada’s Baffin Island and the other near Siberia.

The vortex is normally present over Baffin Island and north-central Canada for the winter, with the cold air building up over time.

But this year the jet stream has dipped far south, dragging a “piece” of the vortex with it through the U.S. prairies and beyond.  Outbreaks like this occur once every 20 years.

There are surprisingly few photos of this phenomenon as it hit Canada.  My guess is that we’re too lazy to take pictures or it’s nothing new for us. Maybe both.  Anyway, here are some photos and stories I found capturing this weather event from a Canadian perspective:


Horseshoe Falls, Canada, January 2014

Above is a shot of a near-frozen Niagara Falls, Canadian side, looking toward the U.S.  Below is a photo taken in the same location, only in summer:


Notice all the young observers in summertime, vs the lone elderly couple during -25 degree temperatures.

Old folks sure are hearty.

Speaking of hearty, consider the case of  70-year-old John Friesen of Leamington, Ontario. He decided to go for his customary morning drive in the back country during one of the worst whiteouts in history.  The next afternoon, a local man spotted a strange red glare coming from a snow drift  in front of his house and phoned police.  Turns out it was the headlights of Reisen’s truck. He had spent over 24 hours  in his truck, buried in snow.  Fortunately he was found cold, but unharmed.  His feet suffered the most–he was only wearing crocs.


Ontario Provincial Police digging out Friesen’s truck.


John Friesen rescued, cold but unharmed.

Our cold weather is good for something other than keeping silly old men hostage.  Picture below is the Toyota Hydrogen Fuel Cell Test in Yellowknife.


Too cold to be posing outside: Toyota fuel test in Yellowknife, January 20, 2014

I dunno about those guys, but I would have wanted my photo taken inside the car.


6 thoughts on “The Polar Vortex, a.k.a. Winter in Canada

  1. I’ve seen some great pictures over at but the true is that the falls are just partially covered in ice, which happens every year. In fact, some of the photographs gaining popularity online, are not even from 2014. But this one is ,)

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