Polar Vortex: What is it, and how does it affect our weather?

You may have heard the phrase "I survived the Polar Vortex" or "Here comes the Polar Vortex." The term "Polar Vortex" became rather popular several years ago during an outbreak of Arctic air, and it’s still widely used today. But, what is the Polar Vortex? 

The Polar Vortex is a weather feature that is always present in our stratosphere, roughly 10-30 miles above the surface of the Earth. The term vortex describes the counterclockwise flow of air around the poles, and while it doesn’t move its central location, it does ebb and flow. That typically happens in the winter, and when it does the normally concentrated area of polar air spreads. 

It’s not uncommon for the atmospheric flow to move that cold air from the poles to North America during the winter months, but it is uncomfortable when our temperatures drop below zero. Especially when that cold, dense air sticks around for as long as its forecast to.