What Is The Polar Vortex?
Do you know what the polar vortex is and how it can affect the weather?
A polar vortex is a low-pressure area—a wide expanse of swirling cold air—that is parked in polar regions. During winter, the polar vortex at the North Pole expands, sending cold air southward...and is often associated with outbreaks of cold temperatures...Sometimes this low-pressure system, full of cold Arctic air, strays a little bit too far from home. Part of it can break off and migrate southward, bringing all of that cold air with it...The breaking off of part of the vortex is what defines a polar vortex event...[Scijinks.Gov]
A polar vortex is simply a semi-permanent, massive low-pressure system that hovers over the poles of our planet.
The National Weather Service says the polar vortex ALWAYS exists near the poles:
- The polar vortex 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.
- During winter in the northern hemisphere, the polar vortex will expand, sending cold air southward with the jet stream (see graphic above). This occurs fairly regularly during wintertime and is often associated with large outbreaks of Arctic air in the United States.
According to the National Weather Service, the polar vortex is NOT:
- Polar vortexes are not something new. The term “polar vortex” has only recently been popularized, bringing attention to a weather feature that has always been present.
- It's not a feature that exists at the Earth’s surface. Weather forecasters examine the polar vortex by looking at conditions tens of thousands of feet up in the atmosphere; however, when we feel extremely cold air from the Arctic regions at Earth’s surface, it is sometimes associated with the polar vortex.
- Polar vortexes are not confined to the United States. Portions of Europe and Asia also experience cold surges connected to the polar vortex. By itself, the only danger to humans is the magnitude of how cold temperatures will get when the polar vortex expands, sending Arctic air southward into areas that are not typically that cold.
Winter Weather Preparation:
- Keep your cell phone charged and make sure you know where your backup power supply is.
- Make sure all your flashlights have fresh batteries.
- Fill your gas tank. You can use your car to keep warm and recharge devices.
- Have some food available that you don’t need to cook.
- Download the Eagle App You’ll receive local alerts, weather reports and more with push notifications.