Strong winds and heavy snow across the upper Midwest Polar Vortex Explained

No Wait Weather

HOUSTON (CW39) Blizzard warnings and winter storm watches are spread across the upper Midwest today. Northeastern South Dakota can expect 5 inches of snow along with 60 mph winds. Twin Cities, Minnesota is forecasting 6-9″ of snowfall for today along with strong winds upwards to 50 mph. 

A slight weakening in the polar vortex is to blame for wintery conditions for this upcoming MLK weekend across portions of the NE as well. The term “polar vortex” may seem new and sensationalized, but it has been around for a very long time and is used frequently by the meteorological community. 


Breaking down both words… vortex simply means something that moves in a circular motion, while polar is referring to the north and south pole.

Both poles have a polar vortex and they exist year-round, not just during the winter.  

The northern polar vortex is a large mass of counterclockwise swirling cold air. Think of it as a giant cold hurricane over the north pole. It keeps its strong circulation with the help of a steep temperature gradient. As the temperature between the artic and other areas in the northern hemisphere decrease the polar vortex will weaken and become wavier.

This allows for “pieces of energy” from the circulation to escape and dip further south, bringing cold, artic air to us in the U.S.



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