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AMS Comments on Polar Vortex

Here at the American Meteorological Society, we understand the great interest in the recent news regarding the ‘polar vortex’ that has controlled much of the nation’s weather this week. We have also seen various news reports commenting on what the term polar vortex means, as well as its history and use. 

At AMS, we have been publishing the “AMS Glossary of Meteorology” since 1959, and in that first edition, AMS did define the term ‘Polar Vortex.' We have since modified the original definition, and today it is defined as:

The planetary-scale cyclonic circulation, centered generally in the polar regions, extending from the middle troposphere to the stratosphere.

The westerly airflow is largely a manifestation of the thermal wind above the polar frontal zone of middle and subpolar latitudes. The vortex is strongest in winter when the pole-to-equator temperature gradient is strongest. In the Northern Hemisphere, the vortex has two centers in the mean, one near Baffin Island and the other over northeast Siberia.

We look forward to sharing ongoing scientific research results in all areas of weather, water, and climate, as we have since 1919. 

Read more about the AMS Glossary of Meteorology:



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