Glaciers around the world are shrinking, yet in a region in northwestern High Mountain Asia (HMA), glaciers show growth. A proposed explanation for this anomalous behavior is related to the variability of the “Western Tibetan Vortex” (WTV), which correlates well with near-surface temperatures in northwestern HMA. Using analytical formulations and ERA5 reanalysis data, we show that the WTV is the change of wind field resulting from changes in near-surface temperature gradients in geostrophic flow and that it is not unique to northwestern HMA. Instead, we argue that net radiation is likely the main driver of near-surface temperatures in Western HMA in summer and autumn. The decreasing strength of the WTV during summer in the twentieth century is thus likely the result of decreasing net radiation. We do argue that the WTV is a useful concept that could yield insights in other regions as well.