Satellite Image of the “Polar Vortex” Over the US

by Nancy Atkinson on January 6, 2014

Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter

This image was captured by NOAA's GOES-East satellite on January 6, 2014 at 1601 UTC/11:01 a.m. EST. A frontal system that brought rain to the coast is draped from north to south along the U.S. East Coast. Behind the front lies the clearer skies bitter cold air associated with the Polar Vortex.

This image was captured by NOAA’s GOES-East satellite on January 6, 2014 at 1601 UTC/11:01 a.m. EST. A frontal system that brought rain to the coast is draped from north to south along the U.S. East Coast. Behind the front lies the clearer skies bitter cold air associated with the Polar Vortex.

If you live in the north and eastern part of the US, you’re probably experiencing some frigid weather. You’re probably also hearing people talk about something called a “polar vortex.”

Just what is a polar vortex and why is it making the temperatures so cold?

This image was captured by NOAA’s GOES-East satellite on Jan. 6, 2014, at 11:01 a.m. EST (1601 UTC). A frontal system that brought rain and snow to the US East coast is seen draped from north to south, and behind the front lies the clearer skies bitter cold air associated with the polar vortex. Also visible in the image is snow on the ground in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and Missouri. The clouds over Texas are associated with a low pressure system centered over western Oklahoma that is part of the cold front connected to the movement of the polar vortex.

NASA explains that the polar vortex is a “whirling and persistent large area of low pressure, found typically over both North and South poles.”

Weather reports say the northern polar vortex was pushing southward over western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, and was bringing frigid temperatures to half of the continental United States. It is expected to move northward back over Canada toward the end of the week.

More about the polar vortex:

Both the northern and southern polar vortexes are located in the middle and upper troposphere (lowest level of the atmosphere) and the stratosphere (next level up in the atmosphere). The polar vortex is a winter phenomenon. It develops and strengthens in its respective hemispheres’ winters as the sun sets over the polar region and temperatures cool. They weaken in the summer. In the Northern Hemisphere, they circulate in a counterclockwise direction, so the vortex sitting over western Wisconsin is sweeping in cold Arctic air around it.

Source: NASA

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Jeff Peak January 6, 2014 at 9:05 PM

-33F is a bit cold.

li January 7, 2014 at 12:11 AM

worser than being in mars

Aqua4U January 7, 2014 at 12:58 AM

That Polar Vortex looks like it’s bringing space weather to ground level!

rlamont January 7, 2014 at 7:05 AM

I don’t follow the reference to “polar lows”. The cold air at the north and south poles, combined with the general circulation, produces what is traditionally known as the Polar High, with an overall clockwise flow. Now the same cold weather is given as an explanation for a low pressure vortex with a counterclockwise flow. Is this vortex smaller in extent than the Polar High?

fulredy January 7, 2014 at 4:24 PM

Doesn’t a “vortex” spin?

Mac Minor January 8, 2014 at 4:09 AM

If this happens all over the world for a few days, we all could probably rest in peace.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: