Polar Vortex Expert: ‘Good Possibility’ Another Cold Blast in February


A climate scientist says that you shouldn’t “put a fork in winter” just yet, even though there will be a taste of spring this and next week after the dangerous cold spell. Winter could be coming back for a second time.

A VERISK climate and environmental study scientist, Judah Cohen, said, “It’s déjà vu all over again” with the polar vortex and how it affects our weather. “A very complicated and rapidly transitioning situation, but I do believe that it’ll come down to rinse, lather, repeat.”

What Does the “Polar Vortex” Mean?

In other words, it will be like December, when there was record-low snow and warm weather. After that, it will be as cold again as it was across most of the U.S. in early January when wind chills dropped as low as 60 below.

Cohen wrote on his blog about the polar vortex, “Cold is likely to return to eastern North America in mid-February. This is a place where the cold has been more sporadic.”

Take a Break After the First Winter

It’s getting warmer, but don’t let that make you cancel your ski trips or put away your snow tools. “That polar vortex kind of crashed and burned there in the first half of January and moved south.” Cohen told FOX Weather on Tuesday, “We had the arctic outbreak.” “But now, let’s say, it’s back together, and the polar vortex is spinning very tightly.” It’s going to be warmer at the end of January because all the cold air is moving back toward the North Pole.

Round 2 of Winter is Coming

The January cold blast was caused by sudden warming in the stratosphere. Over six days, Amy Butler of NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Laboratory wrote that the air in the atmosphere warmed by 55 degrees. The winds from the polar vortex slowed down.

“That’s what we had in January that brought the arctic air, and I think that there’s a good chance that will repeat itself in February,” he said. “Then look for a soft pattern.” It doesn’t look like winter is over yet. There isn’t a break in the pattern, I think it’s a pattern of relaxation.”

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The polar vortex is a zone of intense winds around the North Pole. The arctic air remains trapped due to the winds’ steady, consistent rotation. According to Cohen, as the winds slow and become unstable, like a top, the vortex wobbles and falls south toward the United States and Europe.

“We’re probably going to have a record warm like we did in December,” Cohen said for the near future. “But I do think then, often when you have these Canadian warmings, the polar vortex then tends to transition into a very large disruption called a sudden stratospheric warming or a stretching event, like a rubber band (pulling cold air south).”

Weather changes in the stratosphere, a region of the Earth’s atmosphere about 19 miles above the surface, cause weather changes that humans perceive on the ground by around two weeks.

Can Cold Weather Get You Sick?

That would imply another arctic blast and the resumption of extensive snowfall.

“I think in the time frame of the second week of February and even possibly mid-February a stretched polar vortex is becoming more likely,” he added. “This should help put a stop to the extremely mild trend that is now in effect in North America. The severity and duration of cold weather connected with the extended polar vortex are yet to be determined.

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