What is the polar vortex?: Science Course with Ryan Morse

Beyond The Forecast

(WFRV) – Temperatures are set to be the coldest of the year this weekend. Most have heard of the term polar vortex. What does this weather term mean?

The polar vortex is a large area of low pressure and colder air at the north pole. The counter-clockwise flow of air is the reason for the term vortex.

A strong polar vortex keeps the cold air bottled up at the pole with a strong polar jet stream. A weaker polar vortex causes the cold air to move south and potentially impacts areas such as Wisconsin.

Do it yourself experiment

Materials: plastic bottle, balloon, scissors, and matches.

Steps:
  1. Cut the bottom off the plastic bottle
  2. Then, stretch a balloon over the bottom
  3. Light a match and blow it out before dropping it in the bottle
  4. Cover the open end of the bottle with your hand which will let the smoke build
  5. Once the smoke builds enough, hit the balloon at the end of the bottle

INTERACTIVE: Wisconsin Weather Radar

What is going on?

Vortex rings are exiting the bottle. The center of the ring represents lower pressure while the ring represents the slower moving air of higher pressure.

For more Science Course with Ryan Morse, click below

Many will remember the Polar Vortex of 2019 when temperatures plummeted into the -20s overnight to end the month of January. Wind chill at 5 a.m Jan 30, 2019 was is in the -40s and -50s!

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