Meteorology and climate are complex topics, which is why it is easy to create confusion about their causes and effects. If you're like me, you have been hearing about this past week's super-cold weather across much of the country, including references to the "polar vortex," and were wondering if that dramatic moniker is a name the media has anointed to the phenomenon, or if it's a legit thing — and what exactly it all means for the rest of the winter (and coming years).

It's a big question, and that answer isn't simple. But it can be explained in relatively straightforward terms that most of us can understand.   

In the video below, Rutgers University's Jennifer Francis and Weather Underground's Jeff Masters explain what's going on with the extreme cold of late, as well as what the jet stream and climate change have to do with it all. It really cleared up some of my confusion and helped me visualize what is happening with global weather conditions. 

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Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.