Looking back to last winter, one of, if not the biggest buzzwords that we saw during the winter was the Polar Vortex, often known as the PV in the meteorological world(and what we will call it for the purposes of this discussion). One would see articles like these on a daily basis that the PV was going to form over the US and bring bitterly cold air to the country, and it was made to seem like the PV forming was a “once in a lifetime” event.
Now that we know what the Polar Vortex is, we can look at how it influences our weather patterns. The primary influence that the PV has on our weather pattern is providing shots of arctic air for the northern tier of the CONUS when a piece of the PV breaks off from the main cyclone of winds and drops south as a result. This is seen in this map from the EURO model from last January, where you can see a piece of the PV has broken off from the main cyclone over the arctic and has dropped down to Ontario and over the Great Lakes, bringing very cold air relative to normal for the Midwest and East.
Now that we know what the PV is and how it influences our weather, let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about it.
· The Polar Vortex is something new.
False. The Polar Vortex has been around since the beginning of time, and while it’s only become a buzzword in the last year or two, meteorologists and forecasters have been using it for decades to help them with their forecasts.
· The Polar Vortex is caused by global warming/climate change
Questionable. The PV has been impacting us long before climate change became a major issue, but some suggest that climate change will lead to more extremes in our weather patterns, which could include more visits from the Polar Vortex. There’s no official correlation between the two as of yet, but the idea is out there. However, attributing any one visit by the Polar Vortex to climate change or using it as evidence for global warming being real has no scientific backing and is simply political posturing.
· The Polar Vortex is evidence that climate change is a hoax.
False. See above re. any single visit of the Polar Vortex.
· The Polar Vortex is responsible for all the cold air we see.
False. While the Polar Vortex is often involved in our biggest cold shots, there are plenty of other ways to have below normal temperatures, and in fact the lions share of cold weather that we see has nothing to do with the PV.
· The Polar Vortex is the reason why we had a cooler than normal summer.
False. As we explained earlier, the PV is very weak in summer and as a result has little to no impact on our weather.
· The Polar Vortex is a harm to our society.
Questionable. Cold weather can have adverse effects, but there’s no difference between cold air from the Polar Vortex and from anywhere else. As long as one dresses appropriately for the cold and limits their time outside during extreme cold(just like what one should do in any cold snap), the PV is harmless.
Hopefully, this piece has helped you understand a little more about what the Polar Vortex actually is, how it impacts our weather, and cleared up some of the common myths surrounding the polar vortex. As always, we love questions, so if you’ve got some, or just have something you want to say, sound off in the comments of this post below (Click comments to the right of the title if you can’t see it) and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can! If you enjoyed this, we’d also really appreciate it if you shared the link to it on Facebook with your family and friends to help us combat the misinformation and hype that’s out there from the media.
Thanks for reading, and stay warm this winter!