Fed up with frigid temperatures? Blame the polar vortex

You can thank the polar vortex for this week's plunging temperatures and weather-related cancellations.

Though recently popularized, weather forecasters say polar vortex has always existed

You can thank the polar vortex for this week's deep-freeze temperatures. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

In case it isn't painfully obvious, it's going to be a cold, cold winter. 

Between high winds and extreme temperatures dipping well into the –20s, Ottawa residents might want to think twice before heading out for New Year's. 

But what exactly is causing the extreme temperatures?

According to Environment Canada, you can thank the polar vortex. That's when a large pocket of dense arctic air blasts freezing air over a region. It can last for several days at a time and create dangerous conditions. 

But what does that mean for the average Ottawa resident? Well, remember the infamous winter of 2014? Meteorologists called it Canada's longest winter. Consider this a rerun. 

Polar vortexes exist around both of the Earth's poles, but weaken in the summer and pick up strength in the winter, according to Environment Canada. 

While the term has recently became popularized, weather forecasters say the polar vortex has always existed.

To protect yourself from the extreme cold, Environment Canada suggests dressing in layers and ensuring your outer layer is wind proof. If you experience shortness of breath or a numbing sensation, you are advised to seek shelter as soon as possible. 

This week, Ontario saw weather and frostbite warnings for regions across the province, and that's expected to continue into the new year.