Go Home, Arctic, You’re Drunk

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Dusting off the old meme I made a few years back, last time the Polar Vortex attacked North America:

And yes, regardless of any dispute about the term “Polar Vortex” itself (there is some confusion and disagreement), the excursion of air masses that normally reside in a particular latitudinal region (i.e, tropical, temperate, polar) can be, and likely is, caused by the effects of human release of greenhouse gasses. Ironically, the sequence of steps that go from your local coal plant or the back end of your excessively large car to an attack by the polar vortex involves a warming of the Arctic. So, I suppose, the polar air we are at present being assaulted with could be worse.

Simply put, as the Arctic warms, the age-old and somewhat complex process of heat moving from the warm equatorial regions to the poles (which you know it has to do, right?) is messed up because the longitudinal temperature gradient is messed up. This causes the giant circles of fast air known as the jet streams to bunch up and form enormous semi-stable loops known as quais-resonant Rossby waves. Once these suckers are happening, all kinds of things happen, like very wet rainy periods causing major flooding, much larger and more intense than usual blizzards, multi-year droughts, and these very annoying arctic incursions.

And that’s what we are having right now in the upper middle part of North America.

Like this:

Note that when you get down that far, the difference between F and C matters little.


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10 thoughts on “Go Home, Arctic, You’re Drunk

  1. We’re currently at -12F, with windchills (at 1pm) of -38. I was out for a short bit, but even with my usual cold weather stuff that typically keeps me warm while moving it didn’t take long to feel it. It’s certainly not weather to take casually. (But it was beautiful, with the crisp air and light on new snow.)

  2. I certainly sympathize with you folks up there in the “frozenorth.” I’m sure the second-story enclosed walkways in downtown MPLS will be much appreciated during this time.

    1. Hardly. I was a bit too extreme — one in GR has a walkway between its building and parking ramp, but nothing more extensive.

      Not where I am, however, and I simply prefer to be outside as much and as often as I can.

  3. The walkways in MN are not just an inside vs. outside thing. In the same places where there are all the skyways, there are vast outdoor courtyards and other things outside, and most of the restaurants hooked up by the skyways have an outdoor part.

    The problem is that on many days of the year, maybe a dozen in the summer and a few dozen in the winter, a normal person will be inclined to get their coat, hat, umbrella, warm hat, gloves, whaever, to go from their office in one of the skyscrapers to a place to grab lunch or do some other errand. But with the skyways you just go in your shirttails. It creates a sense of, and reality of, a community, much like having a kitchen area embedded in a workplace, but much larger, with all the workplaces.

    It is only a little about having the ability to go outside and not die.

    True story: My father, reasonably influential in the local city development and planning, visited Minneapolis and brought the idea back home, where one small skyway was built before everyone turned on the ida and the project was not further developed. So there is a sports arena hooked to a hotel, that’s it. But that’s not the story.

    When he was visiting Minneapolis, it was a conference, and he spent the whole day visiting places within the skyway system, going to parts of the conference, having lunch/dinner with people, etc. then, at the end of the day, he found himself exiting the skyway about five blocks from his hotel, but it was late at night, so he was locked out in 20 below weather without a coat. There was nobody around to help or let him back in.

    I’m actually not sure how it works these days, if the skyways lock like that at some point.

    1. No, but seriously somebody eventually let him back in. But that is not a very good ending for a story.

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