The polar vortex is a large, long-term cyclone that exists between the troposphere and the stratosphere (between about 6,000 feet and 40,000 feet) over the poles of most planets, Earth included. It is strongest in the winter, and generally breaks down in the summer months. It has a large impact on ozone depletion and weather patterns around both the North and South Poles, occasionally shifting to create much colder conditions at mid-latitude locations.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center defines a polar vortex as “a persistent large-scale cyclonic circulation pattern in the middle and upper toroposphere and the stratosphere, centered generally in the polar regions of each hemisphere.”
They occur during the long polar night and are formed when a column of cold air in the middle to lower stratosphere causes a high pressure system. The vortex is fed as warmer air from the upper troposhere moves into the vortex.
Other planets also have their own polar vortices including venus which has two vortex at each pole, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Saturn’s moon, Titan.
Here’s a video of the polar vortex on Venus.
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