Polar Vortex 2016 Dips Into North America

Kerry Wise
December 16, 2016

A almost continuous stream of moisture will interact will a Pacific low pressure system pushing inland across northern California and the Pacific Northwest; which will spread rain and mountain snow from the West coast to Great Basin/Intermountain West. Snow levels will raise during the overnight hours and into Thursday morning as warm air lifts into the region. It is not at the surface, nor is it an actual storm system.

In the Midwest, round two will come roaring in for the weekend.

Thursday saw temperatures below zero across the Upper Midwest and in places like Iowa, Illinois and in, according to the Weather Channel, and a second round of the chill is headed for the Northeast starting on Friday. That's what has been happening this week in the northern Plains and in the Midwest, and the frigid air is now sweeping into New Jersey and other parts of the Northeast. "Limit outdoor exposure. Bundle up and dress in layers".

Wednesday: High 37, low 18; partly cloudy. Wednesday's daytime temperatures will barely exceed the low 20s, with wind chills in the teens.

So, this week seems like a good time to break out your winter gear, and prepare for all of the polar vortexes that the rest of 2016 and 2017 have in store.

The cold in the East is going to be intense, but brief.

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The most intense cold will hit the big cities from Washington to Boston on Thursday and Friday.

New Yorkers will wake up on Friday to temperatures of between 9 and 14 degrees Fahrenheit and winds gusting above 30 miles per hour, making any exposed skin painful after just a few minutes outdoors. But winter is when it really comes alive - not only is Arctic air colder because of the lack of sunlight, this is also when the jet stream plunges south.

So while you should be ready for colder temperatures, you shouldn't panic. Southern temperatures are of course warmer, and because warm air takes up more space than cold air, this leads to taller columns of air in the atmosphere.

The polar vortex is back and the bitterly cold temperatures and snow it's bringing with it will affect large swaths of the United States. The National Weather Service explains that a polar vortex is "a weather feature that has always been present" but "has only recently been popularized" as a term.

In November and December, parts of the vortex set up over Siberia, causing exceptionally cold and snowy conditions there while driving unusually mild air into the Arctic and melting sea ice. This trough of cold air is now expected to bring very chilly temperatures to the US East coast from New England to the Mid-Atlantic. It is composed of jet streams circling around the pole (there is one at the South Pole, as well). It will be similar in intensity.

Chicago is forecast to have a high of just 10 degrees on Sunday, with a low of minus-3 degrees that night into Monday morning.