By Sarah Brill, Science & Technology Editor
Polar vortexes are common in the North Pole. In fact, they happen almost every year. This year, however, as meteorologists anxiously awaited their news story of the night, an unprecedented event occurred: temperatures spiked in the arctic from minus 92 degrees Fahrenheit to 8 degrees Fahrenheit, thrusting warm wind into the oncoming polar vortex. Instead of just striking the North Pole as it was supposed to, this vortex split into two. One is headed towards North America, and the other towards Europe, where it is expected to strike at the end of January and beginning of February.
Regularly occurring polar vortexes in the poles occur quite differently than that of the abnormal polar vortexes headed towards North America and Europe. Typically, cold air is spun counterclockwise near the North and South Poles and it dissipates in the spring. Polar vortexes have always occurred by the poles, according to the National Weather Service. To maintain the cold spin of air, there needs to be a stable temperature and the vortex will travel along the jet stream. When these vortices occur, northern states and northern parts of Europe are affected by small snowstorms and colder weather due to some of the vortex expanding south along the jet stream. Stratospheric warming, however, can destabilize the polar vortex, pushing it off course.
The question remains: what caused this sudden change in temperature? It is no secret that the Earth is warming, the ice is melting, and climate change is happening before our eyes. In fact, according to National Geographic, “[i]n the past 30 years, the Arctic has warmed about twice as fast as the rest of the world, a phenomenon known as arctic amplification.” This unusual and irregular warming and cooling of the Earth’s atmosphere has caused events from the wildfires in Australia and California, in addition to the warmest summer Antarctica has ever experienced.
Now, an unnatural polar vortex is headed towards North America and Europe one of which is caused by climate change. It has been warned time and time again that if a shift in our mentality towards climate and the environment does not change, irregular events such as these will continue to occur.