NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
North polar vortex. Timelapse satellite image animation showing the potential for sudden stratospheric warming (SSW), produced by variations in the North polar vortex, from 15 December 2012 to 28 January 2013. A polar vortex is an area of low pressure found over each of the Earth's poles. Areas with a high potential for SSW are white, those with a lower potential are darker. SSWs occur when there is rapid warming (at least 25 degrees Celsius in one week) and the polar vortex wind reverses in direction from westerly to north-easterly. This brings colder than average temperatures to lower latitudes. This system produced a SSW that brought very cold weather to North America in January 2013. Animation compiled from the GEOS-5 data assimilation system.
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