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Difference between polar and arctic air

We’re nearing that time of the year, where we begin to see drastic temperature swings in Mid-Missouri. As cold air to our north gradually tracks into the country, it’s origination can mean the difference between potentially record-breaking temperatures to just cooler than normal conditions.

We’ve all heard the term Arctic air outbreak, it’s the term we often associate with some brutally cold air and originates closer to the north pole. It’s this air that will usually bring record-breaking temperatures with and can drop highs into the single digits and teens. The reason this air is so cold has a lot to do with the lack of sunshine the Arctic Circle receives, what sunshine it does receive is scattered in the atmosphere. When this occurs less of the suns rays make it to the ground, keeping the air from warming up. When this air eventually makes it into the country it takes a while to modify to the surrounding environment, which is why we typically see some of the coldest air associated with the Arctic.

Polar air on the other hand originates in Canada. While Canada is significantly colder than the US, it does receive more sunshine than the Arctic. This means that the air will be a lot warmer than the air found near the North Pole. Polar air also tends to have more moisture in the atmosphere, which can lead to winter weather across Mid-Missouri.

We’ve already seen cold snaps here in Mid-Missouri and we are gearing up for another one as we head into the coming days. Thankfully this air won’t be frigid, as its origination is from the Siberian Sea, but it will bring some of the coldest air of the season across the region. Thanks to cold air spilling out of Canada, we will see a cold front track through the region Thursday into Friday. This will bring a return of lows in the lower 20s and highs struggling to climb out of the lower 40s. As quickly as the cold air arrives, we’re set to gradually warm back into the 50s as we head into the weekend.

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