The 2016 polar vortex is upon us, and winter is coming (just not from George R.R. Martin). The polar vortex, or an arctic cyclone as they’re also known, is essentially a hurricane-like storm that hovers over the North Pole of the Earth. Like tropical storms, the Arctic winds are moving up to 100 miles per hour around a relatively calm center. In January, meteorologists are already predicting that “a major and far-reaching blast of cold air will sweep in over much of the Central and Eastern states next week,” but will this quick freeze be enough to leave Niagara Falls frozen like in previous years?
In a related report by the Inquisitr, if meteorologists ever discuss a winter storm exploding in growth, then they may starting using other weather terminology like bombogenesis.
The term polar vortex may have become popular in 2014, when it first became mainstream, but it is not a new weather phenomenon. In short, it is a large pocket of low pressure and cold air surrounding both the south and north pole. The polar vortex always exists, but it weakens during the summer. The reason that a polar vortex means winter is coming is because a jet stream may send Arctic air blasting down toward Canada and northern states within America.
The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) notes that the 2014 polar vortex was not unique, since there were “several notable colder outbreaks in 1977, 1982, 1985, and 1989.” The polar vortex can also affect other parts of the Earth.
“This is not confined to the United States,” explained NOAA. “Portions of Europe and Asia also experience cold surges connected to the polar vortex. By itself, the only danger to humans is the magnitude of how cold temperatures will get when the polar vortex expands, sending Arctic air southward into areas that are not typically that cold. In short, there is no cause to be alarmed when you hear about the polar vortex, but you should be prepared for colder temperatures.”
Between January 10 to 17, AccuWeather Chief Long Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok predicts the polar vortex “will deliver a cold shock following record warmth during December. The cold will also affect a large swath of the nation.” During this time frame, the ” highs will be within a few degrees of zero F over the northern Plains and Upper Midwest. Lows will be well below zero in the region.”
The question is whether the frozen blast will last long enough to freeze Niagara Falls like it did during the last two years. On social media, photos show how warm the area the has been since Christmas 2015, so it certainly seems unlikely.
It’s a surprisingly mild Christmas day at Niagara Falls. Last year, this same falls was frozen pic.twitter.com/ePEZOByKWF
— Betty Boop (@BechayBoop) December 26, 2015
The only known image that might truly depict a fully frozen Niagara Falls is from February 2, 1936, when the Washington Post reports the famous landmark indeed was “frozen dry” for a time. In 2014, a 1911 picture showing Niagara Falls frozen also began circulating on social media. But the first time this remarkable event occurred was in March of 1848, when an ice dam formation on Lake Erie caused Niagara Falls to dry up.
Niagara Falls during the freeze of 1911. pic.twitter.com/43RNQ7oCS6
— Historical Pics (@VeryOldPics) December 23, 2015
The 2015 polar vortex was also remarkable since it allowed an ice climber to scale the frozen sections of Niagara Falls.
Unfortunately, the 2016 polar vortex seems unlikely to repeat this event. Although cold winter weather will be hitting the area hard, it seems like the staying power may only be a week or so.
“Indications are the polar vortex will again retreat northward after several days,” Pastelok said. “There is a significant chance that milder air from the Pacific will mix in from west to east beginning on or before the third week of January.”
That does not mean the cold weather will depart completely. It is expected that the Northeast, especially New England, will still receive some Arctic blasts during the second half of January. All in all, it is predicted that the “recovery would likely stop well short of record warmth.”
(Photo by Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Getty Images)