Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Polar Vortex

PostedJanuary 11, 2019

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Lede: This weekend’s snowfall may be the start of a colder winter according to a theory that looks at air streams in the Arctic region.

Randy Atkins: About twenty miles above the North Pole, satellite images show a fast flowing circle of air known as the polar vortex. Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, thinks it’s a key to our winter weather…especially if something disrupts its air flow.

Judah Cohen: When you have this polar vortex disruption the cold air spills out to lower latitudes and goes toward the United States, especially the eastern United States.

Randy Atkins: …causing colder than average temperatures.

Judah Cohen: We had that last year in February and it happened just now, in early January, again. It doesn’t happen every year, but we’ve had now for two consecutive winters.

Randy Atkins: Indeed, Cohen says the vortex has split in two and computer models suggest its frigid air could keep dripping down on us for up to eight cold weeks. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.