LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – It’s mild in mid-Michigan this week, which is a welcomed change following the bitterly cold air we had to start the month of February.

Why do we occasionally see these brutally cold pockets of air?

We’re no strangers to cold air in the middle of winter, but some cold air outbreaks are a lot stronger than others, and that has a lot to do with where that cold air originated.

You might have heard the buzz phrase ‘polar vortex’. That’s actually something that exists all of the time both at the north pole and the south pole.

It’s just the name given to the area of cold air that circles around the poles, and that’s usually encircled by a strong jet stream.

That jet stream is just some very fast wind that circles around and that keeps it corralled for the moment. If the wind surrounding it starts to decrease, if it slows down even a little bit, that allows it to drop south. Kind of like if you have a hula hoop.

The slower you go, the more likely it is to drop. That’s exactly what the polar vortex does.

It goes all the way down towards the US where we can have cold air outbreaks with temperatures that are well below zero and some wind chills that could even be around 50 below zero or worse.

Thankfully though, when the wind picks back up, that goes back towards the north and we start to warm things up, hopefully even faster as we head towards spring.