Shifting polar vortex, the reason behind severe winter globally

Namrata Devikar
Wednesday, 30 January 2019

According to weather experts, due to the southern shift of the northern polar vortex, some parts of western Himalayas, which rarely witness snowfall, have reported snowfall this year.

Pune: According to weather experts, due to the southern shift of the northern polar vortex, some parts of western Himalayas, which rarely witness snowfall, have reported snowfall this year. The weather experts also noted that the shift has caused one of the worst winters in northern Europe this year as well. Climate change and global warming are the primary causes for this.

The polar vortex is an area of low pressure and cold air that swirls around both of the earth’s poles like a wheel. The chilly mass circulates around the north and south poles all year long. In the winter, the northern polar vortex weakens, sending cold air south with jet streams.

Speaking to Sakal Times, Mahesh Palawat, Vice-President, Meteorology and Climate Change with Skymet, a private meteorological service, said the polar vortex is breaking more often due to climate change and global warming. 

“There is a temperature difference between the poles and the tropics. We are observing that this temperature difference is widening day by day, which has resulted in the breaking of this vortex. This is now happening frequently due to climate change and global warming. The last polar vortex breaking too place in 2013. It is not a yearly phenomenon,” said Palawat.

He added that frequency and intensity of western disturbance are the primary causes of severe winters over western Himalayas.

“The icy cold winds from these snowfall regions decrease the lower temperature in the plains as well.,” Palawat said. 

“Hence, we are seeing the drop in temperature now. The polar vortex affects primarily the northern Europe and the United States of America (US). This supercooled air travels to lower latitudes as well as altitudes. The cooler winds are moving from the west to the east,” said Palawat.

Confirming this, Pune India Meteorological Department (IMD) Climate Research and Services Head DS Pai said that westerly winds are moving in the deep region, because of which we are experiencing more cold. 

Speaking to Sakal Times, Head of Climate Research Division, IMD, Pune, AK Srivastava said that the polar air is coming to the southern part and is impacting the weather.

“Usually, the polar vortex is restricted to the extra tropics. This time, the jet streams are southwards. The cold we are experiencing was not predicted before. Snowfall increase this year has been in the western Himalayas. Places like Nainital and Mussoorie have experienced snowfall after a long time,” said Srivastava. He added the polar vortex is a part of climate variability.

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