By Matthew Shepherd, ’19

In recent weeks, students have noticed a dramatic shift in the weather. In a matter of days, the temperature dropped from a comfortable 70 degrees to 40. Ecological scientists have attributed this change to a shift in the polar vortex.

The polar vortex is an area of low pressure which surrounds both the north and south poles. As it expands and strengthens during the winter time, it sends out blasts of cold weather which travel along the jet stream. This results in spells of cold weather, such as in June of 2014.

According to a study in Nature magazine conducted by Dr. Jiankai Zhang and Dr. Wenshou Tian, the vortex has shifted eastward over the last three decades, towards Europe and Asia. The scientists concluded that this shift would result in colder days in February and March, usually when the weather begins to warm back up.

Along with shifting, the polar vortex has also weakened, relative to its usual strength during the winter, when it is usually its strongest.

In an interview with, noted climatologist as well as an expert on winter seasonal forecasting Dr. Judah Cohen said, “We have shown that increased Eurasian snow cover and decreased Arctic sea ice have forced a weakening in the polar vortex, which is consistent with their findings.”

Should this increased snowfall along with the decreasing of ice in the Arctic continue, more of these severe cold spells could hit North America this winter. Expect increased snow fall along with lower temperatures in later months than usual.