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Vt. Meteorologist Weighs In On Polar Vortex Phenomenon

Niagara Falls thawing after a polar vortex.
Nick LoVerde
Associated Press File
Niagara Falls is pictured here starting to thaw following a polar vortex back in January 2014.

If you're a Game of Thrones fan — and even if you're not — you've probably heard this ominous line: "Winter is coming." Well a recent Axios article says a polar vortex is not only coming, it’s actually splitting into three pieces. We spoke with Eye on the Sky meteorologist Mark Breen about the phenomenon.

Listen above to Mitch Wertlieb's conversation with Mark Breen.

Breen said these polar vortex events are caused by stratospheric warming events far above the Arctic Circle, which pushes cold air south. This phenomenon has "been going on since forever" but, he said, meteorologists are still working to understand them.

He said these happen most winters, but it appears that warmer temperatures in the Arctic may be causing this to happen more frequently. Another factor, Breen explained, is that the sun — which is low at this time of year — can be tied to weaker patterns over the Arctic, which translates into a surge of cold air in the United States.

Breen said this particular stratospheric warming event is one of the strongest on record since the 1950s and, as a result, meteorologists are expecting a cold surge somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere.

So does that mean it’s coming to Vermont? Breen said meteorologists can’t yet make that forecast.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
Bayla joined VPR in 2018 as the producer for Morning Edition. She left in 2019.
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