What is a Polar Vortex and is it coming our way?

What is a Polar Vortex and is it coming our way?
MGN Online
Weather Talk
Sunday, July 13, 2014 - 8:02pm

You remember the polar vortex the country experienced in January right? Well it's now summer and we are about to experience another one again... right?

As the forecast started to take shape late last week, and excitement climbed at the thought of a break from the heat, the term "polar vortex" started making the rounds on the Web.

Tweets from several meteorologists from all over the country began throwing around the term and exciting many people that we would see at least 20-30 degrees cooler on the eastern part of the country thanks to a typhoon that had hit japan earlier last week.

Then there was pushback from some who objected, saying it wasn't a polar vortex at all.

Marshall Shepherd @DrShepherd2013 tweeted this:

#Weather peeps Please RT this picture. @NWS office highlights this cool snap is NOT #polarvortex Thank you NWS Tulsa

The term "polar vortex" was all over the headlines in January, when bitterly cold Arctic air invaded the Midwest, South and East and sent temperatures plunging 20 to 30 degrees below average.

So the question now is. What exactly is a polar vortex?

It's simply a semi-permanent high-altitude area of low pressure that in the Northern Hemisphere is centered over the North Pole.

It's at its strongest in the winter and weakens in the summer.

If this is so, then why would the word even be used during the summer months?

The Washington Post reported last week that some National Weather Service offices had been told not to use the term and declared that the cool snap is not from a polar vortex.

While the American Meteorological Society defines a polar vortex as "a planetary-scale mid- to high-latitude circumpolar cyclonic circulation, extending from the middle troposphere to the stratosphere," it's clear this cool snap will not be a planetary-scale event -- as the cooler temperatures will be confined to the eastern half of the nation.

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