Winter Weather Handbook: Winter Buzz Words

Winter Weather Handbook

(WBRE/WYOU-TV) — It’s easy to get excited about the winter weather but excitement can sometimes lead to exaggeration. Kristina Shalhoup has the latest on two common winter buzzwords that have more bark than bite.

There are a lot of words that have been going around that have become buzzwords in the world of meteorology.

Like these two, for example: polar vortex and bomb cyclone. But while their effects might not be too fun, they’re really not uncommon phenomena. These days, social media is at the forefront of communication.

“The information that we get is awesome. We can get the word out on all kinds of stuff that we weren’t able to before,” said Dave Nicosia, NWS Binghamton, NY.

 But there are two sides to every story.

“Stuff can get blown out of proportion pretty easily,” Nicosia said.

Especially when it comes to more complicated subjects like meteorology.

“I mean, you know, the atmosphere is so complicated. Putting it in a little tweet is very difficult sometimes,” said Nicosia.

Some of those little tweets have popularized some very big words and phrases that might sound scary. But really aren’t if you look a little deeper. One phrase that has become popular over the past few years is “polar vortex”. But the polar vortex itself isn’t new at all.

“There’s an area of low pressure in the upper atmosphere that is in the high latitudes,” said Nicosia.

That area of low pressure is the polar vortex.

“It’s always there. It breaks up into little pieces at times. Sometimes it’s strong. Sometimes it’s weak,” Nicosia said.

Low pressure is cyclonic, meaning it rotates counter-clockwise. Sometimes, the polar vortex’s rotation weakens, and parts of the system droop south. As a result, people in the mid and lower latitudes, like Pennsylvania receive an uncharacteristically large blast of freezing cold air.

It’s unpleasant, but not uncommon. Speaking of low-pressure systems that aren’t new…

“I remember talking about bomb cyclones when I went to Penn State back in the 1980s,” Nicosia said.

A ‘bomb cyclone’ forms by the process of explosive cyclogenesis. Another intimidating phrase, it just means that pressure is falling very quickly over a short amount of time. The result is a strong area of low pressure, AKA, the bomb cyclone.

“You know, it’s nothing unusual. It means we’ve got a big storm,” Nicosia said.

A big storm that, while not too out of the ordinary, can still pack a punch. But whether it’s a bomb cyclone, the polar vortex, or any other word or phrase that catches your eye, just remember to look beyond the headline and know where your information is coming from.

“The source is critical. It’s gotta be a trusted source,” stressed Nicosia.

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