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Science behind the Polar Vortex and its influence on this week’s weather


You may have heard the term Polar Vortex thrown around in national media stories before, especially during cold outbreaks. While the term may seem scary it's a very real phenomenon that always exists in our atmosphere... and typically isn't something we need to worry about 

The Polar Vortex is defined as the spinning mass of cold air which rotates around the North Pole. Think of this mass as a pool of much cold air that hangs out up north. We talk about the jet stream a lot in our forecasts, and that ribbon of wind actually traverses around the planet and holds the vortex in place up north... most of the time.

Sometimes, when winds in the jet stream slow down and weaken, the cold, dense air in the vortex can actually force little chunks of itself southward. This "break-off" of the vortex is responsible for the bitter cold, dangerous arctic outbreaks we see in the winter-- and the 25-30+ degree below average temperatures we're going to be seeing across mid-Missouri on Thursday.

This may have you wondering whether this will mean more cold outbreaks in the upcoming weeks. When we look at the next ten days, it looks like the vortex favors breaking off these little chunks across the United States which would imply temperatures holding steadily below average. However, temperatures won't be cold the entire time.

Small amounts of moderation are likely in between the "cores" of these little chunks as they pass across the country.

Article Topic Follows: Insider Blog
extreme cold
winter weather

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Luke Victor

Luke Victor gives forecasts on ABC 17 News broadcasts and reports on weather stories on air and online, giving viewers and readers a deeper look at what causes different types of weather.


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