More Arctic blasts may slam U.S. this winter as ‘polar vortex’ shifts

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PM UPDATE: The National Hurricane Center is watching an area of disturbed weather in the western Caribbean, but chances are near zero percent that it will develop as it drifts west, according to forecasters. (Credit: NHC)

Look out! The polar vortex is coming!

When this wild weather phenomenon locks in during U.S. winters, cars won’t start, pipes freeze and even your eyeglasses need defrosters.

The Great Lakes turn into a giant skating rink.

A new study published in the journal Nature contends that as the Arctic warms, the polar vortex is shifting, leading to warmer winters in Europe and colder ones in the U.S.

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Satellite image shows the nearly-frozen Great Lakes on Feb. 7, 2009. (Credit: NASA)

The vortex — actually a giant area of low pressure over the poles — tends to keep cold air confined to the Arctic areas. But when it weakens, it can unleash frigid air down to the mid-latitudes, which is what happened during the winter of 2014-2015.

The winter vortex has been stronger over Northern Europe and Siberia and weaker over North America, and that trend may be accelerating.

A climatologist with the private firm Atmospheric and Environmental Research contends it will continue to cause increasingly cold winters in the U.S., and particularly the Northeast.

Ironically, the paper notes that the disruption of the vortex is the result of Arctic warming because it weakens the polar low.

Arctic outbreaks are impossible to predict on a seasonal basis but they do show up in medium-range forecasts, 10 days to two weeks out. For now, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for above normal temperatures in most of the U.S. during the November-January period.

NOAA’s updated winter forecast should be issued in late November and it will be interesting to see if the agency is on board with the potential for more blasts of cold air into the U.S.

Overall, La Nina conditions in the Pacific lead to warmer and drier winters in the southern tier of states, but that doesn’t mean an occasional outbreak of Canadian air won’t make it all the way down to the Florida peninsula.

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Windy conditions are pounding Florida’s East Coast, thanks to high pressure in the Carolinas and low pressure in the Caribbean. Winds gusted up to 31 mph at Palm Beach International Airport on Thursday morning and were forecast to reach the mid-30s in the afternoon.

There was a 38 mph gust at the Lake Worth Pier and a 51 mph gust in Biscayne Bay.

Winds will remain gusty through the weekend, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

Gusts are reaching the mid-20s on the Treasure Coast.

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Most of the precipitation in South Florida over the next couple of days is likely to fall near the southern tip of the state, according to the National Weather Service. A few light showers were hitting the East Coast farther north on Thursday, but they were short-lived. (Credit: NWS-Miami)

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Author: jnelander

Freelance writer and editor

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