Climate Change and the Polar Vortex
Below freezing temperatures have always been something the Midwest has had to deal with. The bite of the wind on our skin eventually becomes a familiar feeling. But when the polar vortex hit, if someone was outside for under 24 hours, they would die. Temperatures in the Midwest got lower than temperatures in Antarctica. The cold took the lives of at least 21 people. A University of Iowa student was found dead outside of an academic building. His death was linked to the dangerously low temperatures the night before. But what was the Polar vortex? And how did it get so bad this year?
The polar vortex is basically a freezing, swirling pocket of air in the upper Northern Hemisphere. The cold air is contained by the jet stream, but during the winter, sometimes the jet stream weakens and bends. When the jet stream bends, warm air pushes upwards, causing the cold air to dip downwards into Canada and the United States. When the jet stream weakens, it is usually not that extreme, but recently, the dangerous below freezing temperatures have become more apparent. The jet stream is weakening even more than usual. Why is this?
The jet stream becomes more weak as the temperature of the globe increases. Man-made global warming is the number one suspect. The temperature of the world has been steadily increasing for the past 5 years because of increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, and the jet stream has been weakening alongside it. When the jet stream weakens, the more unstable the polar vortex becomes, and the freezing air creeps down into North America. The weaker the jet stream is, the more cold air dips down. So yes, global warming is part of the reason why the weather was actually colder, contrary to what most people might think. But then again, weather is not the same as climate.
“In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder,” President Donald Trump said in a tweet during the polar vortex. “People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global warming? Please come back fast, we need you!” Well, as has been stated, global warming is partially responsible for the cold weather; emphasis on the word ‘weather.’ Weather is temporary changes in the state of the atmosphere, coming and going with the seasons. Climate is a whole other thing. Climate is “the weather conditions prevailing in an area in general or over a long period,” according to Google. Climate is the long-lasting changes over an area, which are usually altered by humans. The word, ‘climate change’ is often used interchangeably with ‘global warming,’ regarding the change in the climate of the world because of the increasing warming.
So yes, global warming is a part of the extreme polar vortex that plagued the midwest, but the polar vortex is also a regular thing that happens nearly every year. Just recognize that the weather is getting more extreme, and the reason is man-made.