Prepare for a Deep Freeze: The Polar Vortex is Breaking Into Three Parts

When I read a story on Axios today about the polar vortex potentially splitting into three pieces, I first had to remind myself what the polar vortex was. I was pretty sure that it was a vortex of polar bears, but then Dan told me I was way wrong and needed to look up what it is. Thankfully for me, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a site called “SciJinks” and on it, they explain for kids — and therefore people like me as well — what exactly the polar vortex is.

A polar vortex is an area of low pressure—a wide expanse of swirling cold air—that is parked in polar regions. The one up north can cause some pretty wild weather and sub-zero temperatures in the United States. But it’s not a new thing—this low-pressure system is almost always up there. (SciJinks)

Oh, okay, so now that we’ve got it in our heads what a polar vortex is — even though I’m pretty sure a vortex of polar bears would be pretty awesome, too — why does it matter if it could be breaking into threes?

Studies show that what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic, and rapid Arctic warming may paradoxically be leading to more frequent cold weather outbreaks in Europe, Asia and North America, particularly later in the winter.

Yeah, but so what?  So there could be even more polar vortex-related weather events. Are those, like, even bad or whatever?

Oh. Okay. So yeah, then. They’re pretty gnarly. So why exactly is the polar vortex set to break up into three parts then?

During the past 2 weeks,a sudden stratospheric warming event has taken place, showing up first in the Siberian Arctic, and then spreading over the North Pole.

  • Such events occur when large atmospheric waves surge beyond the troposphere and into the layer of air above it. Such a vertical transport of energy can rapidly warm the stratosphere, and set in motion a chain reaction that disrupts the stratospheric polar vortex.
  • Sudden stratospheric warming events are known to affect the weather in the U.S. and Europe on a time delay — typically on the order of a week to several weeks later, and their effects may persist for more than a month.

…a sudden and drastic warming of the air in the stratosphere, some 100,000 feet above the Arctic, and by a resulting disruption of the polar vortex — an area of low pressure at high altitudes near the pole that, when disrupted, can wobble like a spinning top and send cold air to the south. In this case, it could split into three pieces, and those pieces would determine who gets hit the hardest. (Axios)


All joking aside, it seems to me that we’re looking at yet another set of data that indicates the planet’s average temperatures are rising, and that as a result relatively predictable and otherwise manageable weather patterns and events are going to be thrown into utter chaos. I’m sure the math doesn’t quite work out this way, but essentially I take this news to mean we’re getting three times the chances for devastating winter storms like we saw in 2014.

Well, the good news is that we have presidential administration that understands this complex scientific issue. Thankfully we have a president who gets what climate change is all about, will see this news, and act accordingly. It’s truly fortunate for all of us that Donald Trump is president because —

Oh. Damn. We’re screwed.

I do remember though that when Trump tweeted that amazingly ignorant stuff Dan had a true moment of glory with a piece he wrote entitled, “Trump checkmates climate change because it’s cold, but this map proves him wrong.” I think I’ll just let Dan have the last word on this, since he nailed it so perfectly already.

First, using the phrase “global warming” is not accurate. Yes, the Earth has been on a warming trend since industrialization, but climate change is a more precise term to use because it accounts for the variety of weather events that occur as a result of the warming of the Earth’s surface.

Second, saying it’s cold outside now is as intellectually honest as saying that since you ate breakfast today, world hunger is a hoax. The Food Aid Foundation reports that over 10% of the Earth’s population don’t have enough food to live a healthy, active life. And something as simple as vitamin A deficiency causes as many as half a million children to go blind each year, and half of those children also die.

Think of it this way: in your closet at home, you have a lot of different options, from different patterns and colors to choose from. That’s your climate. The specific outfit you choose to wear on any given day is your weather. Your weather can vary greatly from day to day, but it is bounded by the limits in your wardrobe. Unless you decide to go shirtless or celebrate no-pants-Friday (I’m not your dad, do what you want). (AsE)

At this point I’m not sure what the bigger threat to human survival is — the polar vortex splitting into three parts, or the presidential administration in power’s complete willful ignorance on climate change.

Writer/comedian James Schlarmann is the founder of The Political Garbage Chute and his work has been featured on The Huffington Post. You can follow James on Facebook and Instagram, but not Twitter because he has a potty mouth.




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