What is causing the extreme cold over North America?

Official blog of the Met Office news team

The weather over North America has been hitting the headlines over the last few days with record breaking cold conditions spreading south from the Arctic. This has been linked to a ‘polar vortex’, but what is this and what could it mean for the UK?

What is the Polar Vortex?

The Polar Vortex is a term normally used to describe the persistent large-scale low pressure area situated around 50km above the poles in the stratosphere. When the vortex breaks down the eastern US is often cold, but this breakdown hasn’t happened yet. It is not clear to what extent the Polar Vortex is influencing surface weather at the moment.

What is happening over the USA?

The American use of the phrase ‘polar vortex’ referring to the extremely cold conditions over North America is slightly different to traditional definition above. It refers to features lower in the atmosphere – in the…

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