Polar vortex? Nope, just cooler Midwestern temperatures

07/11/2014 8:53 PM

07/11/2014 8:54 PM

Unseasonably cool weather 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 this week to describe the upcoming sweater weather.

The office 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 United States into a freezer for weeks at a time, breaking low 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 lower than normal, with the biggest drops seen close to the Great Lakes.

The predicted low for Kansas City is 58 degrees on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, with highs only in the 70s both days.

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

What does it mean?

That sound you hear coming from Oklahoma might be thousands of people turning off their money-gobbling air conditioners. It could also be the cheers of those who make their living working outside, such as the employees at a Tulsa nursery, whose job entails hauling trees and shrubs around town.

“We love it,” Paul James, marketing manager for Southwood Landscape & Garden Center, said of the forecast for temperatures running about 15 degrees lower than the typical 93- or 94-degree July days. “Any day you don’t get above 100 degrees.”

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