A Polar Vortex Wreaks Havoc

By Hallie Simic ’21

Heavy winds and rain may be the main complaint of most Angelenos lately, but in the Midwest, the weather has been far worst for residents.

Recently, you may have heard of the “polar vortex” that struck the Midwest states and caused a number of casualties. There is a common misunderstanding that this storm is a recent force of doom, but, in fact, it is a natural phenomenon that has always existed.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a polar vortex is “a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding the Earth’s North and South poles.” The term  vortex refers to the counterclockwise flow of air that helps keep the colder air close to the poles. When winter comes, the size increases gradually and this January, the vortex split into parts.

“It’s a pattern that is happening more frequently and is often followed by severe cold and winter storms” said Judah Cohen, a climatologist for the New York Times. “It warps the polar jet stream, bringing freezing arctic air south and warm air north.”

As a result of this most recent polar vortex, Huffington Post reports that there have been at least 21 fatalities and many frostbite victims in trauma centers, with some facing risks of amputation. The intense cold and windy conditions, it reported, forced U.S. airlines to cancel more than 2,000 flights for two days in a row.

Meanwhile, health officials warned how senior citizens, outdoor workers, and the homeless were most vulnerable to the colder temperatures and their risks. Even as many warming shelters opened throughout cities, some individuals fell victim to hypothermia, and there were reports of many traffic collisions from the icy roads.

Luckily, the forecast called for increasingly warmer weather. Although these record-breaking temperatures have reached as low as minus 60 F, Huffington Post reports that high temperatures were expected to range in the 30s and even low 40s F last weekend, with the central Plains states warming to the low 60s F, which is nearly 20 to 25 degrees above normal.

Image via NPR




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