The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

July 12, 2014

Polar vortex? Nope, just cooler Midwestern temps

CHICAGO — Unseasonably cool temperatures will arrive next week in the Midwest and as far south as Arkansas and Oklahoma.

It is not, however, the second coming of a polar vortex, a phrase the National Weather Service’s Chicago office tweeted earlier this week to describe the upcoming sweater weather. They quickly learned that wasn’t such a good idea, said Amy Seeley, a weather service meteorologist who spent a good chunk of Friday morning fielding a flood of telephone calls from the media.

“I think people are pretty sensitive to those words,” she said.

WHAT’S TO BLAME?

Though Typhoon Neoguri has weakened since hitting Japan, it altered the path of the North Pacific jet stream, allowing polar air behind a trough of low pressure to spill out of Canada and into the Midwest, says Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters.

It’s similar to the polar vortex pattern from the winter that turned much of the country into a freezer for weeks at a time, breaking cold weather temperature records in numerous states. But there are key differences, Masters says. This air mass is coming from western Canada and not directly from the arctic, plus the polar vortex is not nearly as strong in the summer — and sometimes breaks down completely.

HOW COLD WILL IT GET?

Between Monday and Wednesday, temperatures in the Midwest will be as much as 15 degrees cooler than normal, with the biggest drops seen close to the Great Lakes, though people in Oklahoma and Arkansas will need to break out pants, too.

Meanwhile, the usually temperate Pacific Northwest should get ready to sweat. Places like Seattle could reach 90 or higher next week, Masters said.

Chicago would normally see highs in the 80s and lows in the mid-60s, but the weather service says highs early next week will climb no higher than the mid-60s — maybe 70 degrees— and lows could dip into the upper 40s.

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