Sigma: April 5, 2016

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A Blast from the Past – Misinformation in your nightly weather report and the history of the Polar Vortex

Lynn Harvey

Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 7:30 P.M. at the Virginia Air and Space Center in downtown Hampton, Virginia


Since it was wintertime, I wasn’t surprised to see “Get ready for the return of the polar vortex!” as a newspaper headline the other day, given forecasts for cold weather. But what is all this hype about the polar vortex and why didn’t I hear about it as a kid? Has this atmospheric phenomenon emerged as a result of climate change or in response to the movie The Day After Tomorrow? Will it rip the roof off my house like a giant tornado? In this talk I will present a history of the polar vortex, dispel any misconceptions, and summarize how the polar vortex is expected to change in a warmer climate.


Lynn Harvey received BS, MS, PhD degrees in Atmospheric Science from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She defended her PhD in 2001.She worked at NASA Langley from 1997-2003 with Dr. Brad Pierce and colleagues in the Chemistry and Dynamics Branch. In 2003 she moved to Boulder Colorado to work at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. Her expertise began in stratospheric dynamics: her PhD involved developing automated algorithms to identify anticyclonic vortices in the winter stratosphere. She has since developed alternative algorithms to demark the polar vortices that can be applied throughout both the stratosphere and mesosphere.