How Changing Temperatures in the North Pole are Creating Polar Vortex Shifts

Last modified 2021-01-11

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With the Arctic region warming at more than twice the rate of the rest of the world, these rising temperatures in the North Pole could contribute to a shift of the polar vortex resulting in extreme winter weather conditions across the US, Europe, and Asia.

The polar vortex, a large area of low pressure and cold air located in the North and South poles is strong and stable, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), but recent stratospheric temperature increases could impact weather events in many geographical regions.

Planning for Weather Events Enables Business Continuity & Safety

Extreme weather events, like those experienced in 2019, carry with them economic impacts as well as human safety concerns. Predicting these conditions gives homeowners and business owners time to plan for the events and safeguard their property while keeping friends and family safe. However, warming temperatures in the North Pole are wreaking havoc on sea-faring research expeditions in the Arctic that have been navigating temperature changes, pandemic restrictions, and thinning ice to continue studies at what is considered the epicenter of global warming. Strong surface winds from upper atmospheric phenomena have pushed sea ice across the central Arctic Ocean allowing vessels to locate on the Atlantic side of the North Pole and continue researching the ocean, atmosphere, and ecosystems of the Arctic region.

Temperature Changes and Polar Vortex Stability

We pulled our Spire Weather data to visualize air temperature on the North Pole. Temperature changes in the stratosphere have a direct impact on polar vortex stability, which can ultimately produce weather effects at the surface level as well.

This animation shows Spire Weather’s WMS layer for 2-Meter Air Temperature, focused on the North Pole. It depicts a 7 day forecast from 10 January 2021 to 17 January 2021. The legend on the left indicates the degrees (in Celsius) that correspond to each color. Notice how colder temperatures are starting to reach into North America and Eurasia. While this shows surface-level temperature, Spire also provides temperature data at standard flight levels and isobaric levels between 1000 and 20 hPa.

Atmospheric Waves and Blizzard Conditions

Arctic wind speed and direction create changing weather patterns and when combined with stratospheric warming events can result in what is referred to as “atmospheric waves” that create an imbalanced polar vortex which can lead to blizzard conditions similar to those experienced in 2013 and 2014 in the US.

This animation shows Spire Weather’s WMS layer for 10-Meter Wind Speed, focused on the North Pole. It depicts a 7 day forecast from 10 January 2021 to 17 January 2021. The legend on the left indicates the wind speed value (in meters per second) that corresponds to each color. Notice how strong winds in the top portion of this animation view correlate to temperature fluctuations in the top portion of the previous animation. While this shows wind speed at 10 meters AGL, Spire also provides winds at standard flight levels and isobaric levels between 1000 and 20 hPa.

Weather from An Unbalanced Polar Vortex Can Vary

Experts agree however, that an off-balance polar vortex does not necessarily result in a harsh winter in the US as stratospheric warming events occurred last year and winter in much of the US was mild. Spire will continue to monitor the current situation for weather effects at the surface level.

Give us Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts on warming trends in the North Pole and the on-going efforts of researchers studying the Arctic region.

 

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