Understanding Polar Vortex: How it can impact us?  



Polar Vortex: Causes and its impact on the environment 

In the past few months, we have heard about a term called Polar Vortex a lot in news headlines and in discussions. The extreme change in the weather condition is known as Polar Vortex. Today, we will be discussing its impact and causes.

Polar Vortex meaning 

Polar Vortex can be defined as a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding the North and South Pole of the Earth. It is the counter-clockwise flow of air that keeps the colder air nearer to the poles. In other words, we can define Polar Vortex as a whirling cone of low pressure over the poles, strongest in the winter months due to the increased temperature contrast between the Polar Regions and the mid-latitudes.

In each hemisphere, there are two Polar Vortexes-

  1.   One is present in the Troposphere (the lowest layer of the atmosphere). Point to note here is that tropospheric polar vortex affects out the weather.
  2. Second is present in Stratosphere (the second lowest layer ofthe atmosphere).Stratospheric polar vortex is more compact thantropospheric counterpart.

In case both the two polar vortexes lined up, it’s going to result in deep freeze conditions.

In case of the strongest polar vortex, cold air is less-likely to plunge deep into North America or Europe means it forms a wall that protects the mid-latitudes from cold Arctic air. But often it has been found that the polar vortex disrupts and gets weak because of the wave energy rising upward from the lower atmosphere.

As a result, the stratosphere gets warm sharply, this phenomenon is known as sudden stratospheric warming. This warming makes the polar vortex much weaker and ends up shifting its location to somewhat south of the pole or, in some cases ‘splitting’ the vortex into ‘sister vortices’.

Effects of Polar Vortex-

1.The decline in temperatures resulting in extreme winter weather in the eastern US region and northern and western Europ

  1. It can also lead to sudden stratospheric warming resulting in the warm Arctic both in stratosphere and troposphere.

 Things to know about Polar Vortex 

  1. Polar Vortex is a not at all a new phenomenon, rather it took place in 2014 widely.
  2. Polar vortex does not exist at earth’s surface rather it takes place in the upper atmosphere.
  3. It cannot be visibly observed or seen from the naked eyes like tornado, thunderstorm, lightning etc.
  4. Polar Vortex in itself is not dangerous to humans but sometimes the cold arctic air associated with it could be dangerous at the surface.


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