Variances in polymers processed by single-screw extrusion are investigated. While vortical flows are well known in the fluids community and fountain flows are well known to be caused by the frozen layers in injection molding, our empirical evidence and process modeling suggests the presence of vortical fountain flows in the melt channels of plasticating screws adjacent to a slower-moving solids bed. The empirical evidence includes screw freezing experiments with cross-sections of processed high-impact polystyrene (HIPS) blended with varying colorants. Non-isothermal, non-Newtonian process simulations indicate that the underlying causality is increased flow conductance in the melt pool caused by higher temperatures and shear rates in the recirculating melt pool. The results indicate the development of persistent, coiled sheet morphologies in both general purpose and barrier screw designs. The behavior differs significantly from prior melting and plastication models with the net effect of broader residence time distributions. The process models guide potential strategies for the remediation of the processing variances as well as potential opportunities to achieve improved dispersion as well as complex micro and nanostructures in polymer processing.