Extreme cold engulfs the Prairies, temperatures dive into the -30s

Digital WritersThe Weather Network
Digital Writers

A classic cold pattern sets up across the globe, sending extreme cold weather southwards onto the Prairies.

Temperatures are sitting at least 10-15 degrees below seasonal across the Prairies, as extreme cold and bitter wind chills grip the region through the end of this year. Daytime highs will hover around the -20s for some places, with potential lows plunging well into the -30s as well. While the Arctic air will relax at times, these colder than seasonal conditions look to lock in through at least early January. Extreme cold puts everyone at risk, so be sure to take the plummeting temperatures seriously. More on the timing, below.

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Bitterly cold air began flooding the Prairie region Wednesday, beginning with the northern parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and destined to cover much of the rest of the region over the coming days.

On Thursday, daytime highs will be no more than -20°C for cities as far south as Edmonton, Prince Albert and Saskatoon, feeling more like -30 with the wind chill. Areas further south won't be quite so chilly, but will still be in the negative teens, which is about 10 degrees colder than normal. Only extreme southwestern Alberta will escape that level of cold, peaking at a mere -5°C.

PRairie temps

For some perspective on this cold episode, a typical Dec. 15 in Edmonton features a high temperature of -4°C with an overnight low of -13°C. Wednesday will see a bitterly cold high of -23°C and an overnight low of -26°C.

Over in Regina, a seasonal Dec. 17 would see a high of -8°C and a nighttime low of -17°C. The city’s forecast temperatures for Friday include a high of -18°C with an overnight low of -21°C.

Although there will be a few breaks in the extreme cold, this frigid pattern is expected to dominate into the end of this year, tipping areas across Western Canada well below seasonal.

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No major storms are in sight at this point, but a swath of mostly light snow is expected this weekend, as a weak low tracks east across the region and as a reinforcing shot of Arctic air presses in behind the system.

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The culprit for this chill is a dual blocking pattern in the upper atmosphere – a very strong ridge of high pressure of Alaska, mirrored by another over Greenland. Between the two ridges, the pattern essentially forces frigid Arctic air to plunge south across the Prairie provinces.

At this point in time, there is a replenished source of Arctic air to tap into, so there will be no shortage of this cold for the next several days.


As of Thursday, extreme cold warnings were only in effect for parts of northern Alberta and western Saskatchewan, but it's possible they will spread as the cold air does. Even in places without such a warning, the prudent thing would be to prepare.

"Dress warmly. Dress in layers that you can remove if you get too warm. The outer layer should be wind resistant," Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) says in the extreme cold warning.

"If it's too cold for you to stay outside, it's too cold for your pet to stay outside."

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It's also important to be mindful of signs of frostbite.

"Watch for colour changes on fingers and toes, pain, numbness, a tingling sensation, or swelling. If present, move indoors and begin warming," ECCC warns.

Frost bite graphic

Check back as we continue to monitor this frigid Prairie forecast.