About Polar Vortex

About Polar Vortex

Normal Condition

  • Polar vortex is a low-pressure system where strong cold air masses circulate in counter-clockwise direction, 2 meters over the poles (both North and South).
  • Usually the upper cold air mass is trapped in the poles due to existence of low-pressure belt at the poles.(See figure)



Distorted Condition

  • Sometimes during the winter, this system is distorted resulting in the cold upper air mass being pushed farther south than usual.
  • When distorted, the polar vortex will expand, sending weakened cold air southward with the jet stream.
  • In 2014 polar vortex distortion occurred twice, once throughout the winter months and also in early spring.




What is causing the distortion in Polar Vortex?

  • The Polar vortex weakens, partly due to warming temperatures in the stratosphere.
  • According to recent studies, with the warming of planet the jet stream over North America and Europe, is slowing and becoming wavier.
  • The jet streams interact with the polar vortex pushing the cold air downwards south.


Global Warming and Polar Vortex

  • It is well known that global warming is leading to melting of Arctic ice.
  • During summers as the ice retreats, specific heat is absorbed by the ocean that lies under the ice.
  • During winter this heat is released as latent heat into the atmosphere creating high pressure belts in the arctic, spurring winds that can disrupt the polar vortex.
  • Thus, global warming is also a cause for cold spans from distorted polar vortex.
Section : Environment & Ecology