Atmospheric Warming Leads to Polar Vortex in Northern Michigan

The polar VORTEX is finally in the United States once again. The Polar Vortex is one of the reasons our temps have been so cold.

You may be wondering how often the polar vortex occurs? Well, it’s not a rare event. It hasn’t “just appeared” over the past few years. The polar vortex is always spinning during the winter up to 30 miles above the surface per to Climate.gov.

To understand the process, note there are several layers to the atmosphere. The troposphere is where the lowest layer of the atmosphere, where weather occurs. The layer above the troposphere is the Stratosphere. A disruption to the Stratosphere can break down the Polar Vortex.

The polar vortex breaks down into smaller pieces when Sudden Stratospheric Warming Occurs (SSW). Sudden Stratospheric Warming is when the Stratosphere rapidly warms. SSW causes the wind flow to decrease in speed thirty miles up. When wind speed slows down, cold air can “spill” into the troposphere (where weather happens). That occurs during the VERY COLD outbreaks.

For example, say you are spinning on a merry-go-round very fast. It is hard to jump off when it is going fast.
The same idea with air, it can not escape. Once the merry-go-round slows, it is easier to jump off. Once winds have decreased, cold air can escape. Sudden Stratospheric Warming occurs about six times in a decade per climate.gov.

So remember, the polar vortex didn’t just “appear” again this year. The vortex split down to the United States, bringing FRIGID air to Northern Michigan.

Categories: Weather