‘Polar Vortex’ pushes subzero temperatures into much of U.S. Midwest

January 6, 2014 CLIMATEA whirlpool of frigid, dense air known as a “polar vortex” descended Monday into much of the U.S., pummeling parts of the country with a dangerous cold that could break decades-old records with wind chill warnings stretching from Montana to Alabama. A polar vortex is a Arctic cyclone of cold air. For a big chunk of the Midwest, the subzero temperatures were moving in behind another winter wallop: more than a foot of snow and high winds that made traveling treacherous. Officials closed schools in cities including Chicago, St. Louis and Milwaukee and warned residents to stay indoors and avoid the frigid cold altogether. The forecast is extreme: 32 below zero in Fargo, N.D.; minus 21 in Madison, Wis.; and 15 below zero in Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Chicago. Wind chills — what it feels like outside when high winds are factored into the temperature — could drop into the minus 50s and 60s. “It’s just a dangerous cold,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Butch Dye in Missouri. It hasn’t been this cold for almost two decades in many parts of the country. Frostbite and hypothermia can set in quickly at 15 to 30 below zero. Between a heater that barely works and the drafty windows that invite the cold air into his home, Jeffery Davis decided he’d be better off sitting in a downtown Chicago doughnut shop for three hours Monday until it was time to go to work. He threw on two pairs of pants, two t-shirts, “at least three jackets,” two hats, a pair of gloves, the “thickest socks you’d probably ever find” and boots, and trudged to the train stop in his South Side neighborhood that took him to within a few blocks of the library where he works.  
“I never remember it ever being this cold,” said Davis, 51. “I’m flabbergasted.” One after another, people came into the shop, some to buy coffee, others, like Davis, to just sit and wait. Giovannni Lucero, a 29-year-old painter, said he was prepared for the storm. To keep his pipes from freezing, he’d left the faucet running and opened the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to let the warm air in his house reach the pipes. “We stocked up yesterday on groceries because you never know,” Lucero said. And he was reminded on the way to work that he’d make the right decision to buy a four-wheel drive truck. “There were accidents everywhere because of the ice,” he said. Roads were treacherous across the region. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard upgraded the city’s travel emergency level to “red,” making it illegal for anyone to drive except for emergencies or to seek shelter. The city hasn’t issued such a travel warning since 1978. National Weather Service meteorologist Philip Schumacher urged motorists in the Dakotas — where wind chills were as low as the minus 50s — to carry winter survival kits and a charged cell phone in case they became stranded. Elnur Toktombetov, a Chicago taxi driver, awoke at 2:30 a.m. Monday anticipating a busy day. By 3:25 a.m. he was on the road, armed with hot tea and doughnuts. An hour into his shift, his Toyota’s windows were still coated with ice on the inside. “People are really not comfortable with this weather,” Toktombetov said. “They’re really happy to catch the cab. And I notice they really tip well.” –ABC News
Warning echoed in 2009: “The winter seasons in the Northern hemisphere have turned notably more vicious, producing some of the largest cyclonic winter storm systems seen in living memory. The dramatic increase in the number and intensity of these storms is unprecedented to anything humanity has dealt with before. It is a significant and dramatic signpost which testifies that the rapid nature of global climate change is now upon us.” –The Extinction Protocol, p. 139
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11 Responses to ‘Polar Vortex’ pushes subzero temperatures into much of U.S. Midwest

  1. Me says:

    Isn’t this what happened in Europe last winter? It’s cold cold cold here in Central Oklahoma!!

    • Joseph Sonny Skies says:

      Hi Me ! Yes! you are correct..In fact they had record breaking cold the last two years which gave the USA a couple of rather mild winters. This year it has flipped over to our side of the hemisphere.

  2. I would love to learn more about the Jet Stream and the Polar Vortex. I understand that the Polar Winds should be flowing East to West in a circular pattern over the Arctic and that it’s very abnormal for those winds to go so far South…I am guessing that because the Polar Vortex is not where it should be that in the Spring and Summer of 2014 we will lose yet even more ice cover in the Arctic, and this in turn might mean that he end of 2014 and January-February of 2015 could again be one of weather extremes. Equally, the Jet Stream has been very different in the past few years, especially the last three years. A fact-filled discussion on the subject is definitely needed.

    • Joseph Sonny Skies says:

      Hi LaBlades! I have studied meteorology for over 50 years and I would like to explain some basics of the polar vortex.
      first of all..It is always in existence. Even in the summer. It grows quite large in the winter because of the large difference between temperatures in the arctic [ where there is no sun shining for much of December and January and the tropics which get virtually the same amount and intensity of sunlight in the winter as they do in the summer.] Believe it or not it is rather rare for the vortex to form right over the north pole. It often forms over northern Canada and sometimes over Siberia. Though it is often circular in pattern it constantly flexes from solar and lunar influences. The atmosphere contains water and water is cohesive so it tends to form in groups instead of being evenly spread out through the atmosphere. Sometimes the vortex can take the shape of a long trough that pulls humid air far to the north while simultaneously plowing dry cold air to the deep south; as we are currently witnessing. When it is more circular we often get average temperatures for the season at hand. Now understand also that the Earth’s atmosphere does not reach the same heights in all parts of the globe. Basically the atmosphere is higher in the south latitudes and lower in the north. The atmosphere during a strong vortex can be considerably lower and colder than the atmosphere around it. This imbalance helps to cause strong winds around the center of the vortex.
      As more sunlight reaches the northern latitudes in spring the atmospheric imbalance becomes smaller and so does the polar vortex.
      As for your question of losing ice over the arctic…I believe any ice ” lost” will continue to be more from subsurface heating of the Earth rather than atmospheric warming but one thing always affects other things..no thing or person is totally inert. usually there is more snow fall during a strong vortex that is pulling humid air from the south over the arctic. from the temperature maps that I have seen, nearly all of Canada is well below freezing. I hope this helped. Obviously, there is so much more to study on this subject but hopefully this has given you some basic understanding.

  3. Wiseguy says:

    Should we wish ourselves a Happy New Year !!! Weather anomalies are happening exponentially, so I think 2014 will be a very busy year. Tornadoes, Snow Storms, Drought, Floods, Earthquakes, Hailstorms… Food prices will raise so much… I’m always laughing when I pick a Cereal box, the box is shrinking and the price is rising !!! Good luck to all!!!

  4. remszi says:

    It must be really hard to cope with this – I can imagine when people are not used to such temperatures and they don’t even own the necessary warm clothes. I hope people will be safe.

  5. Colleen says:

    -2 degrees here in Kentucky. I opened my door to let the cat out to do her business, and the blast of cold air that hit me almost put me in shock. Believe me the cat did not waste any time coming into the house. She ran through the door, grateful to be out of the frigid air. She is an outdoor cat normally. We let her in due to the cold weather.

  6. I must say where I live hehe in Minnesota wasnt at all too bad yes it got cooler even inside, this is why we Minnesotans know layers help and if needed turn up the heat and if electric oven not gas use that too but only if really needed, i didnt have to tho know some tho that did tho….. I actually thought in terms of other previous like back in the 90s arctic air episodes then this one was a bit tame, compared to that one lol……. of course some minnesotans may not agree with me lol but i have a long memory of these sorta things, it even happened back in the 80s at least once if not twice in every decade….

  7. Jay says:

    People can seek shelter, and band together. It’s the livestock and wildlife I worry about. It’s hard to eat and keep warm out of the elements in bitter cold.

    Too many of these Artic Blasts (or a prolonged one) would be devastating to wildlife, fowl and livestock. The food chain would be severely disrupted, for predator and prey alike.

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