October 24, 2014

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Polar Vortex: What Is It? What Does It Mean For U.S.?

Polar Vortex: What Is It? What Does It Mean For U.S.?


A polar vortex is affecting millions of Americans this week who live in the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast with recording-breaking freezing cold temperatures.

What's A Polar Vortex?

What exactly is a polar vortex? It’s when winds from the North Pole – which typically has its circulation contained in the Arctic – slide farther south into the Northern Hemisphere. The result of the polar vortex distortion is unusually frigid weather across North American, Europe and Asia.

Unlike a single storm, such as a blizzard or hurricane, the cold snap brought on by a polar vortex has greater longevity and breadth. Furthermore, the arrival of a polar vortex distortion can actually cause storms. The distortion that’s occurred over the last several days is partially to blame for the nor’easter that hit late last week.

Global Warming & The Polar Vortex

Although it seems counterintuitive, the abnormal cold facing much of the U.S. on Tuesday could very likely be a result of global warming. The polar vortex, much like other extreme weather events, could be caused by Earth’s overall warming. When the jet stream is distorted, heat waves – and cold fronts – can result.

A shocking total of 26 states were under wind-chill warnings or watches today in the U.S. The Upper Midwest states were preparing for the worst, as temperatures were expected to reach around 36-below zero, with a wind chill temperature near 60-below. The temperature is gradually expected to rise over the course of the day and into Wednesday, reaching the 30s and 40s by Friday.

– Chelsea Regan

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Read more: Polar Vortex, Weather, Science, Winter, Global Warming


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