Why is it so cold? Debunking the polar vortex

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COLUMBIA - Winds are blowing, and the thermometer is dropping like a box of rocks. Is this just winter taking its first steps, or is it something more serious?

Is it the return of the polar vortex?

Meteorologist Eric Aldrich said while the polar vortex has the potential to change the temperatures in the United states, it's pretty unlikely. 

"Last year, during all the fuss about the vortex, the weather people never really explained that it's a chain of events that moves the temperatures lower," Aldrich said. "So is the polar vortex making you cold in Missouri? No."

People in Columbia were a little shaky about just what the polar vortex does.

"Well since I just heard of it last year. It's either a new thing or not that common," Amy Jester said.

While it's true the public hadn't heard a lot about the large pocket of cold air in the polar region until last year, that wasn't because it didn't exist.

"I think the hype surrounding the polar vortex and just big weather events in general, I think it is something that the national media outlets tend to hype," Aldrich said. "Why they do that, I don't know, but I think weather is a very easy target."

Saturation of coverage is not unheard of. Since September, dozens of stories have come out of national news outlets claiming any sharp change in temperature was caused by the catchphrase "polar vortex."

"It tends to always be end of the world situation. They're praying on the sensibilities of little old ladies that don't want to come out of their homes," said Patrick Connors, a resident of Columbia.

The National Weather Service said in an article Tuesday not every cold snap should be blamed on the polar vortex.