The Polar Vortex: breaking down the science behind the cold


(KTVE/KARD) “The Polar Vortex has always been around. The Polar Vortex never really goes away. It’s always something that sits up there at the polls” says Meteorologist Brandon Thorne with the National Weather Service in Shreveport.

While the name Polar Vortex may sound scary, it’s only a large area of low pressure that occurs at both the north and south poles. The term vortex refers to its counterclockwise flow.

“If you imagine the counterclockwise flow, it’s actually pulling the air towards the center of the circulation and keeping that cold air at the poles” Thorne said.

It weakens and strengthens with each season and when it strengthens during Winter, it becomes more unstable due months of growth. This causes the air to head south.

“When the Polar Vortex gets wavy it’ll actually send off shoots. And so, portions of the Polar Vortex can actually come down through the jet streak and through the jet stream, and that’s what really kind of pushes it down into our area” Thorne said.

So what we experience here in the United States is a piece of it, with brutal cold outbreaks, especially across the Midwest and Northeast; even bringing record cold temperatures to our area.
Another push could be heading our way into next week, and it’s something that local meteorologists are keeping an eye on.

“So, there’s a lot of uncertainty that we’re going to have to play with to make sure that, you know, the timing looks okay, and the temperatures look ok, and how far it can actually get into our area” Thorne said.

Thorne also note the Polar Vortex has brought record breaking cold in recent years, dating back to 2014 and 2007.

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