Polar vortex to bring freezing blast of air to North Carolina

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The polar vortex. It's kind of the winter buzzword. People hear it and think "that sounds bad!" It's always been there, but in recent years we hear about it, probably because it makes a cool hashtag. #polarvortex But what is it?

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Basically, it's a giant area of low pressure -- a big area of swirling air, that sits over the North Pole. It's almost always up there. Sometimes, pieces of it will break off and send cold air spilling into the U.S.

When that happens, we'll get a taste of that arctic air in the Triangle and Sandhills.

That's exactly what's going to happen in the coming week.

You can see those areas of purple showing up during the next 10 days.

These are different surges of cold air working in. Though the timing may be off, the point is that several pieces of the arctic chill will be headed in.

What is a Polar Vortex?
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What is a polar vortex? Just what it sounds like: a vortex that originates over the polar regions.

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Now, let's look up a bit higher in the atmosphere. If we look at the 500mb maps, we can see a trough (disturbance) digging in later next week.

I put the red arrows in to help show the flow around the trough. That flow will cross the cold plains of Canada and the upper Midwest and drag a ton of cold air down across us, reinforcing the cold air moving into place.

Basically, it's going to get even colder next week, and it could stick around longer than the first cold blast that's happening Monday, which will bring our high temperature down into the low to mid-30s.

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The next question everyone will ask is "Does this mean more snow?" Short answer is it's too early to tell, and no way to tell when it would fall.

One of the two things we need for big snows in our area is cold air in place. The other is a low coming out of the south. We'll have the cold air by next week, still not sure exactly when, or if, that second ingredient will show up.

Just know that even with temps around 60 on Friday, that may be the warmest our area is, for a while.
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