Weather 101: What is the Polar Vortex?

Digital Desk

The polar vortex is a weather phenomenon that involves a large, persistent low pressure system that revolves around the poles of the planet.

The focus of this segment of Weather 101 is going to be on the polar vortex around the north pole. The polar vortex around the north pole holds some of the coldest air on the planet.

When the vortex is in a stronger state, it works to keep the air bottled up in the Arctic. This is not always the case, though, as the vortex itself is very dynamic. It can sometimes split into two lobes of low pressure, helping spread out the cold, dense Arctic air.

Sometimes, the vortex becomes even weaker. This results in Arctic air getting pushed towards the equator. In the northern hemisphere, this would result in the air moving south. In the winter, we sometimes talk about Arctic fronts or Arctic blasts. This is exactly what we’re talking about during our cold stretches.

Local results of polar vortex intrusion can cause temperatures to plummet dangerously low. In our case, we’re looking at the forecast for January 30, 2019. Temperatures are going to be in the single digits while wind chill values drop down well below zero. Accumulating snow and icy conditions are looking likely.

This is a weather phenomenon that does exist year round, but we only really have to worry about in the winter when we don’t get ample daytime heating.

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