Temperatures across much of the eastern U.S. are hitting record lows this week, but meteorologists say the arctic air won’t be reaching Utah.
Air flow at the poles creates year-round vortices, also known as an arctic cyclone. A weakening of the North American winter jet stream can lead to distortions in the shape of the polar air mass and allow for cold air to push southward, like what’s happening now.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Larry Dunn explained it’s not the vortex itself that’s reaching much of the eastern U.S.
“The storm track has just pushed that really cold air that’s normally over the arctic southward into the upper Midwest and the Great Lakes area,” Dunn said.
Dunn said the polar vortex boundary could be seen clearly in the football games played in Green Bay, Wisconsin and Cincinnati, Ohio this weekend. Fans in Green Bay bundled up in zero degree weather, while temperatures in Cincinnati peaked at a relatively tropical 35 degrees.
Though this outbreak is getting a lot of attention, Dunn said polar occurrences like this aren’t all that uncommon.
“We have these arctic outbreaks; they do happen often, they happen all of the time. But this one is just so much colder than what we’ve been seeing for the last ten years or so,” Dunn said.
The vortex is expected to push eastward over the next three days, sparing Utah from the chilled air.