Why You Shouldn’t Believe The “Polar Vortex” Hype

Posted at 11:01 AM, Jul 11, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-11 11:15:58-04

Upper Air Chart Showing Origin of Low Pressure Center

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — (July 11, 2014) You’ve probably seen it all over social media this week, the relentless polar vortex taking aim at the Great Lakes.

The dreaded system that brought frigid temperatures this winter making its return in summer sounds like a scene out of the Disney movie Frozen. But just like the movie Frozen, this headline on newspapers and social media is made out of fiction.

The term “polar vortex” became popular in the media this winter when the cold air centered over the north pole became dislodged and was carried south into the United States by the jet stream. This purge of air directly from the polar regions created record-breaking low temperatures in the Northern United States.

While the polar vortex is an actual scientific term its meaning has been altered by the masses, which makes the common use of the term different from the technical classification. Meteorologists who study the atmosphere daily will know the difference between the two and know that using the term although socially correct is scientifically wrong.

Without getting too technical, the system moving in early next week will bring cooler than average temperatures but these temperatures will not be polar or even arctic in origin. The upper-level low will become closed, “trap” cool Canadian air and move it into the Great Lakes dropping temperatures below average. But it isn’t all that unusual to see a strong cold front once or twice during the summer months especially during Tropical Cyclone season when strong storms can cause the jet stream to buckle.

High temperatures Monday through Wednesday will range from upper 60s to low 70s, which is between 10 to 20 degrees below average. While it may be chilly for some it’s not too far from average temperatures this month which have averaged 3 degrees below normal. In fact, temperatures are not even that cold in Canada. Here are high temperatures from Thursday.


Thursday’s High Temperatures in Canada

What ever you’d like to call it, “polar vortex” or cool-down it won’t last long as temperatures warm to average behind the low by the end of next week.