NOAA Grant Recipient Andrea Lang Advances Understanding of Polar Vortex Prediction

Atmospheric scientist Andrea Lang will study polar vortex changes in the stratosphere that could significantly improve our understanding of extended range forecasting.

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 28, 2016) -- The Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences' Andrea Lang will spend the next three years studying polar vortex changes in the stratosphere that could significantly improve our understanding of extended range forecasting.

The competitive, three-year project grant of $363,882 was awarded via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Program Office's Modeling, Analysis, Prediction, and Projection (MAPP) Program.

A polar vortex is a region of low-pressure that develops over the polar areas of the planet every winter as a result of the limited sunlight reaching the high latitudes. The lack of sunlight allows for the column of air over the pole to cool. As the air over the pole cools, the jet stream on the perimeter of the cold air mass spins up. The stratospheric portion of the polar vortex (heights of about 10-50 km) is characterized by both the cold air mass and the jet stream.

In recent years extreme conditions in the stratospheric polar vortex have been cited as a possible contributor to blasts of cold Arctic air and high-impact winter weather.

"During the winter," Lang said, "the stratospheric polar vortex meanders and wobbles around the polar region. Researchers and forecasters keep track of these meanders and wobbles in a variety of different ways because major changes to the polar vortex's location, shape and strength in the stratosphere are followed by similar changes to the polar vortex near Earth's surface. A major perturbation in the stratospheric polar vortex can have impacts on our weather for roughly 45 days."

The three-year award also supports Professor Lang as a participant in NOAA’s newly formed Subseasonal to Seasonal (S2S) Phenomena Prediction Task Force.

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