What is a Polar Vortex?

December 3, 2015 3:39 PM |

Polar VortexPolar Vortex is a much-talked about phenomenon in the meteorological world, for decades now. You might suddenly experience brutally cold weather and find your car buried under ice-encrusted snow. Meteorologists will explain the cause of your misery and blame it upon the polar vortex.

So what is a polar vortex?

It is simply a large pocket of very cold air. There are actually two polar vortices in the atmosphere of Earth. One is situated around the North Pole and the other around the South Pole.

The Northern Hemisphere (Arctic) vortex generally contains two low-pressure areas, one near Baffin Island, Canada and the other over Northeast Siberia.

The Antarctic vortex in the Southern Hemisphere contains a single low-pressure zone, which tends to be located near the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. As and when the polar vortex is strong, the Westerly winds gain strength.

The frigid cold air of the Artic vortex generally finds its way into the United States when the polar vortex is pushed southwards. It occasionally reaches southern Canada and the northern Plains, Midwest and Northeast United States. A very powerful high-pressure system is required to displace the pocket of cold air.

These high-pressure weather systems originate in the Eastern or Western Pacific, extending up to the North Pole or probably Alaska. Typically they do not stretch all the way to the North Pole. This vortex bears the propensity to deliver temperatures to the United States and Canada during winters.

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As the strong air coming from the Western or Eastern Pacific weakens and falls apart, the polar vortex retreats back to the North Pole.

Featured Image Credit - Dailymail UK


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