Meteorologist Ray Petelin is back with another home science lesson!By Ray Petelin

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The term “polar vortex” may sound like a cold version of a “sharknado”, but unlike a sharknado, the polar vortex is a real, meteorological thing.

The polar vortex is a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding both of the Earth’s poles.

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It always there, too. It weakens in summer and strengthens in winter.

(Photo Credit: KDKA Weather Center)

While the term “vortex” may sound scary to some people, it is a scientific term that refers to the counter-clockwise flow of air that helps keep the colder air near the Poles.

The term Polar Vortex isn’t new buzzword either.

According the the National Weather Service, Polar Vortex is believed to have first appeared in the magazine E. Littell’s ‘Living Age’ in 1853.

(Photo Credit: KDKA Weather Center)

Since the polar vortex is always present at the poles, but you don’t hear about it very often, that means it is usually contained there, thanks to a strong jet stream.

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(Photo Credit: KDKA Weather Center)

Occasionally throughout the year, the Polar Vortex becomes less stable and expands with a weakened jet stream.

This sends very cold air southward.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

The Polar Vortex is not like rain, snow or a tornado that you can see.

It is something you feel. When a piece of the Polar Vortex expands down into our area, it brings VERY cold air.

The Polar Vortex itself isn’t dangerous at all.

The cold air it brings can be, though, if you or your pets spend too much time in it.

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