Living and Learning

The Polar Vortex Kettle Effect

It is brutally cold right now and many people are going to endure terrible conditions both on the streets and at home. Every year, some homeless people die, and this year is worse than most.

Folks in Alberta don’t talk about global warming much. We might talk about climate change, but not global warming. The reason for this is that over the last few decades, the rising temperatures worldwide have created more snow and ice in this part of the world. So, for more weeks of the year, it’s not warming us at all. Quite the opposite, in fact.

2-howfrigidpol

Polar Vortex from H.L.Gardiner/UCAR via Phys.Org

This week, because of the polar vortex, lots of people in the northern parts of the United States are getting a taste of that. In fact, they are getting record-setting amounts of snow and record-setting low temperatures. It is pretty awful. That is the result of global warming.

phys.org polar vortex

Air Temperatures Jan 29, 2019 from Pivotal Weather via Phys.Org

The apparent contradiction between global warming and local freezing is bewildering to a lot of people, but it’s really not that hard to understand. When the polar ice caps melt, the oceans rise and there is more moisture in the air. When it gets cold in winter, that moisture turns to snow. Simple. Add to that a blast of arctic air and you have mayhem on the streets of Chicago.

Image from Climate.gov March 11, 2015

For a more scientific explanation of how frigid polar blasts are connected to global warming, I recommend you to an excellent article on Phys.Org 

If we don’t want longer colder winters, and if we don’t want more snow and ice, we’ll have to do something to counteract our contributions to this. We helped make this happen; it’s up to us to unmake it.

 

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