The term "polar vortex" has only recently came on the scene as media buzzword, and it's really quite undeniably cool. If nothing else, it makes for a good work excuse. "I can't come in today, boss - the polar vortex has iced our local infrastructure grid." Works better than "Roads are slippery."

But while the term itself is new, the phenomenon it describes isn't, and in fact we've known about this particular weather pattern for a few decades now. In today's DNews dispatch, circumpolar navigator Trace Dominguez investigates the history and significance of the polar vortex, a.k.a. cross-polar flow, a.k.a. polar jet stream. a.k.a. westerlies. Bundle up.

Read More:

Science Alert: It's official: the polar vortex is back with a vengeance

Washington Post: Polar vortex shifting due to climate change, extending winter, study finds

Weather.gov: Christmas Coastal Snowstorm: December 22-24, 1989