What is a polar vortex

The wind freezes the cities

Today we are going to talk about a very peculiar meteorological phenomenon known as polar vortex. Many people treat it as if it were a phenomenon that causes the north pole to move further south. That is, what it does is that the temperatures in the entire area of ​​the northern hemisphere, regardless of the pole.

In this article we are going to explain what the polar vortex is and what consequences it has on the climate of the northern hemisphere.

What is the polar vortex

Low temperature due to polar vortex

When we speak of a polar vortex we mean a large area of ​​low pressure that forms close to the poles of the Earth. Normally, this polar vortex is more prevalent at the north pole. This low pressure zone contains intense cold air that makes temperatures drop dramatically. It is called vortices because it refers to the rotation that this wind has against clockwise and allows the cold air to stay for a longer time near the poles. The polar vortex weakens in summer and intensifies in winter.

Sometimes during the northern hemisphere winter this vortex causes the cold air to travel much further south along with the jet stream. This happens regularly during winters and is associated with extreme cold waves that come from the Arctic in the United States. The most recent and most extreme cold wave to occur is that of January 2014.

This meteorological phenomenon is usually confused by others that have always been present. This term has recently become popular due to its use by meteorologists. These scientists examine the polar vortex by analyzing conditions that occur tens of thousands of feet in the atmosphere. However, when the temperatures associated with this meteorological phenomenon drop, some regions of the earth are seriously affected. This phenomenon is not just limited to the United States, it also occurs in some parts of Europe and Asia. The only danger that this phenomenon can represent for people is the magnitude with which temperatures drop, sending cold air that spreads to areas of the south that are not usually cold.

Key features

Winds of the polar vortex

As it can affect regions that are not normally cold, it is common for certain impacts to occur both on people and on flora and fauna. However, do not be alarmed when you hear information about the polar vortex. The only important thing is to prepare to be able to withstand lower temperatures than normal. It is advisable to check the items we have from emergency supplies in homes and vehicles so that they can adapt to the winter season and ensure that you can prepare for the dangers that winter storms harbor.

One of the main consequences of this meteorological phenomenon is that the Midwest of the United States freezes. The thermal sensation in some cities reaches around -50 degrees. However, actual temperatures are between -20 and -30 degrees. The rest is the thermal sensation caused by the polar wind. To alleviate the consequences of this phenomenon, many cities open suitable shelters to house people who cannot protect themselves well from the cold and many of the schools close. Not to mention the airlines that cancel flights to avoid negative consequences and possible accidents.

Consequences of the polar vortex

Consequences of the polar vortex

And it is that this polar vortex that generates the area of ​​low pressure is surrounded by a belt of winds that circulates in a western direction counterclockwise. In this way it can be kept closer to the poles for a longer time and remain cold air. The real problem arises when the flow is weakened by a sudden warming of the stratosphere. This warming of the stratosphere enables cold air masses to expand from the poles to lower latitudes. This or has its consequence for areas that are not normally used to polar cold. Both the flora, the fauna and the human being must adapt to these temperatures during the time that the polar vortex covers.

As a result, when the stratosphere suddenly warms up, the polar vortex becomes less stable and sends polar air southward, affecting many areas of the United States along with the jet stream. This phenomenon is nothing new, but the first time this article was published was in 1853. It is also associated with other extreme North American cold waves registered in January 2014, or those of 1977, 1982, 1985 and 1989.

Along with the cold and low temperatures, frosts of great magnitude occur. These frosts make life difficult for people who are not used to the cold. Some of the consequences for the way of life in cities is that roads have to be cut due to excessive snow and some communication routes are disconnected. There are also power outages in many areas of the cities.

Curiosities of the polar vortex

Cold wave of the United States

  • This term was known in the winter of 2014 because of a stratospheric warming that affected North America.
  • Almost every year that this phenomenon has occurred, the radius that has stratospheric it is about 1.000 kilometers.
  • In order to measure the location and position of the polar vortex, numerous measurements are needed on the layers of the atmosphere.
  • Tropospheric polar vortices also exist and are weaker in summer and stronger in winter.
  • If this phenomenon is weak, the extratropical cyclones that tend to rise towards the north collide and that were smaller vortices within the polar currents. These mini vortices usually last a month.
  • Volcanic eruptions that occur in the tropics can cause the polar vortex to strengthen for several winters.

As you can see, this meteorological phenomenon has recently become famous and it is vitally important to know its effects in order to prevent its consequences.

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