The Polar Vortex Phenomenon

Robert F. Bukaty

Paige Oatney, Staff Writer

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Now that February has passed, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, and spring just seems to be in our reach It’s as if the polar vortex we’ve had this winter is almost over. This phenomenon over winter called the polar vortex had caused temperatures to reach way below zero, some states in the U.S. becoming colder than Antarctica. Though many kids have been ecstatic with the lack of school due to this weather, many experts are concerned with how drastic these temperatures have been.

A polar vortex, according to SciJinks, is areas of low pressure that keeps the cold air trapped in the North and South poles of the Earth. Disturbances in the jet stream in the North Pole, which is a narrow band of strong air currents that circle the globe miles above Earth’s surface, plunge southward and cause the cold Arctic air to reach the United States. The vortex influences where the jet stream goes, so when it weakens, the jet stream can dive down south. Polar vortexes have been more common in the past five years due to the warming temperatures of the stratosphere, which is a layer of the Earth’s atmosphere extending to about 32 miles above the Earth’s surface. More evidence has been coming forward that with rising global temperatures, there could be many more cold winters to come as polar vortexes keep heading southward.

Ohio reached some pretty low temperatures, an average low of negative four degrees fahrenheit. Though, with windchill, The Guardian reported the average was around negative 22 degrees fahrenheit . Most central Columbus schools rejoiced in the extended luxury weekend, many receiving two to three days off due to the cold. As frigid as the weather was in Ohio, many other cities in the U.S. got hit much worse. Chicago hit a whopping -48 with wind chill, ten degrees colder than Antarctica.

Many think that this is only a rare occurrence, but scientific evidence have shown that because the Arctic has been warming faster than the rest of the planet, allowing more heat to escape from the ocean because of the reducing amount of Arctic sea ice causing these polar vortexes. But, some scientists have said that the melting sea ice doesn’t affect the polar vortex as strongly as others think. They think that other factors, like long-term variations in sea surface temperatures and changes in the tropics, play a bigger role.

Even though it seems like our winter season is over, the polar vortex could last into early or even mid March. So, stay warm and hope that our rising global temperatures won’t cause any colder winters!

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