I don’t know about you, but I am certain that I had never heard of a ‘Polar Vortex’ before last year. Isn’t that strange? Some scientists would have you believe that you have known about them for hundreds of years, but I would think that if my nose suddenly froze and then dropped off, I would know about that? You know what I mean. In recent years it has gotten so flipping chilly that we have actually started to talk about it. Yes, we always talk about the weather, it’s ‘go to’ subject for small talk, however, did you remember it being THIS cold when you were a kid?
I live in a part of the world, were it USED to be noted as having milder weather than most places, during winter. For the past couple of years, I have noticed that not even my real fire can heat up the whole lounge. I can sit next to it, and the half of me that is next to it, is lovely and warm. The half of it that faces away, is blue. Seriously, I lose the feeling in my fingers, toes and nose. That’s not right.
What is going on here? Well first let’s find out what exactly a ‘Polar Vortex’ is:
‘There are two polar vortices in the atmosphere of planet Earth, one around the North Pole, and one around the South Pole. Each polar vortex is a persistent, large-scale cyclone, circling the planet’s geographical pole. The bases of the two polar vortices are located in the middle and upper troposphere and extend into the stratosphere. They surround the polar highs and lie in the wake of the polar front. These cold-core low-pressure areas strengthen in the winter and weaken in the summer due to their dependence upon the temperature differential between the equator and the poles. They usually span less than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) in diameter within which the air circulates in a counter-clockwise fashion in the Northern Hemisphere, and in a clockwise fashion in the Southern Hemisphere. As with other cyclones, their rotation is caused by the Coriolis effect.
The Northern Hemisphere vortex often contains two low pressure centers, one near Baffin Island, Canada and the other over northeast Siberia. Within the Antarctic vortex in the Southern Hemisphere a single low pressure zone tends to be located near the edge of the Ross ice shelf near 160 west longitude. When the polar vortex is strong, the Westerlies increase in strength. When the polar cyclone is weak, the general flow pattern across mid-latitudes buckles and significant cold outbreaks occur. Ozone depletion occurs within the polar vortex, particularly over the Southern Hemisphere, and reaches a maximum in the spring.’ – Wikipedia.
Brilliant. So how long have we been experiencing these vortices?
‘The polar vortex was first described as early as 1853. The phenomenon’s sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) appears during the winter in the Northern Hemisphere and was discovered in 1952 with radiosonde observations at altitudes higher than 20 km.’ – Wikipedia.
Okay, I am not THAT old. Why didn’t I experience this when I was a kid? why wasn’t ‘polar vortex’ ever mentioned in a weather report way back then?
‘A study in 2001 found that stratospheric circulation can have anomalous effects on weather regimes. In the same year researchers found a statistical correlation between weak polar vortex and outbreaks of severe cold in the Northern Hemisphere. In more recent years scientists identified interactions with Arctic sea ice decline, reduced snow cover, evapotranspiration patterns, NAO anomalies or weather anomalies which are linked to the polar vortex and jet stream configuration. The general assumption is that reduced snow cover and sea ice reflect less sunlight and therefore evaporation and transpiration increases, which in turn alters the pressure and temperature gradient of the polar vortex, causing it to weaken or collapse. This becomes apparent when the jet stream amplitude increases (meanders) over the northern hemisphere, causing Rossby waves to propagate farther to the south or north, which in turn transports warmer air to the north pole and polar air into lower latitudes. The jet stream amplitude increases with a weaker polar vortex, hence increases the chance for weather systems to become blocked. A recent blocking event emerged when a high-pressure over Greenland steered Hurricane Sandy into the northern Mid-Atlantic states.’ – Wikipedia.
(P.S, I suspect this blog may predominantly be a ‘Wiki’ blog).
2001. Okay, that explains a lot, but WHY are we seeing this now? And don’t say ‘Global Warming’ because many people think that’s a myth:
‘The chemistry of the Antarctic polar vortex has created severe ozone depletion. The nitric acid in polar stratospheric clouds reacts with chlorofluorocarbons to form chlorine, which catalyzes the photochemical destruction of ozone. Chlorine concentrations build up during the polar winter, and the consequent ozone destruction is greatest when the sunlight returns in spring. These clouds can only form at temperatures below about −80 °C (−112 °F). Since there is greater air exchange between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes, ozone depletion at the north pole is much less severe than at the south. Accordingly, the seasonal reduction of ozone levels over the Arctic is usually characterized as an “ozone dent”, whereas the more severe ozone depletion over the Antarctic is considered an “ozone hole”. This said, chemical ozone destruction in the 2011 Arctic polar vortex attained, for the first time, a level clearly identifiable as an Arctic “ozone hole”.’
‘It is caused by the release of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and other ozone-depleting substances (ODS), which were used widely as refrigerants, insulating foams, and solvents. Although CFCs are heavier than air, they are eventually carried into the stratosphere in a process that can take as long as 2 to 5 years. Measurements of CFCs in the stratosphere are made from balloons, aircraft, and satellites. When CFCs and HCFCs reach the stratosphere, the ultraviolet radiation from the sun causes them to break apart and release chlorine atoms which react with ozone, starting chemical cycles of ozone destruction that deplete the ozone layer. One chlorine atom can break apart more than 100,000 ozone molecules.’
(Do you ever get the feeling the EPA think you are an idiot? What causes Ozone Depletion? ‘Ozone depleting substances’? No shit?)
Hm, so quite a few technical words there. Can you break it down for a layman like me please?
‘Other chemicals that damage the ozone layer include methyl bromide (used as a pesticide), halons (used in fire extinguishers), and methyl chloroform (used as a solvent in industrial processes for essential applications). As methyl bromide and halons are broken apart, they release bromine atoms, which are 60 times more destructive to ozone molecules than chlorine atoms.’
Hang on, I am getting the impression here, and I might be the only one, that all the ‘substances’ that causes ‘Ozone Depletion’ are, in fact, man-made? ‘refrigerants, insulating foams, solvents, pesticides, fire extinguishers, more ‘solvents’, but isn’t that suggesting the CHANGES to the CLIMATE are ‘man-made’?
Can these changes be made by natural sources?
‘While it is true that volcanoes and oceans release large amounts of chlorine, the chlorine from these sources is easily dissolved in water and washes out of the atmosphere in rain. In contrast, CFCs are not broken down in the lower atmosphere and do not dissolve in water. The chlorine in these human-made molecules does reach the stratosphere. Measurements show that the increase in stratospheric chlorine since 1985 matches the amount released from CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances produced and released by human activities.’
Oh. Never-mind then.
Are you absolutely certain of this? Is there any ‘room for error’, or do you know for certain?
‘Yes, an international consensus about the causes and effects of ozone depletion has emerged. Under the sponsorship of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the scientific community issues periodic reports on the science of ozone depletion. Over 300 scientists worldwide drafted and reviewed the most recent analysis, WMO/UNEP Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 2006.’
Right. Your kind of backing the ‘Climate Change conspiracy’ theorists into a corner here.
What can we expect to happen with regards to these Polar Vortices’?
‘Weather experts are not able to predict (accurately) more than a few days ahead’, so let’s change the question:
What can we expect to happen with regards to climate change, using historical data?
‘The NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center found that since modern records began in 1895, the period from December 2013 through February 2014 was the 34th coldest such period for the contiguous 48 states as a whole.’
34th coldest period. In 120 years. I wonder is that like ‘this is the 34th time its been cold’ or does it mean ‘its getting bloody colder the more periods we have’ or ‘its not THAT cold, its been worse. 33 times its been worse in fact’?
I remember George Carlin once doing a routine on climate change. I don’t remember the exact words, but basically he said ‘we haven’t been able to destroy the earth yet, so stop worrying about it. It won’t happen’.
Thing is, we never had so much technology before. We never had so many people before. We never had so much production before. We didn’t even have a fraction of the carbon emissions that we are seeing now. That’s a really stupid argument, and if he wasn’t dead already, I would tell him that.
Perhaps this is why no-one is prepared to be more pro-active about answering a simple question?
So, I guess my choices are quite simple:
Freeze to death and have done with it or set fire to the lounge, in order to heat up all of me. I already wear extra layers, and that helped, but not this year. Brr!
I know what’s coming. Some of you may be thinking, you’re a hypocrite. You add to the emissions with your carbon footprint. Cool. Let’s have a look at that:
I stopped driving four years ago, so my old gas guzzler has not been adding anything to that. I walk everywhere, so no ‘contributions’ via public transport, no impact on roads and the repairing of roads. Even when I have to purchase bulky, heavy or numerous items, I walk and I take a suitcase (it has wheels on it), so I can drag it all home again.
I try very hard not to buy plastic products. Not easy given plastic is on everything, but at least I try.
I recycle EVERYTHING. I collect old newspapers from friends, to use as fire-lighters. Not just newspapers, but old phone books, and junk mail. So instead of contributing to landfill, all my neighbours are also keeping their footprint down and I am using ‘alternative fuel sources’, as I am able to cut down on coal and logs.
I use glass jars to hold my plants instead of plastic plant pots (because plants produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. I have 73 plants in my house). Incidentally, I only use 50% compost on those plants. The other 50% is coal ash, which is great for providing those plants with minerals.
I purchase my clothes from charity shops. I am not proud (I have no ego) they are good clothes.
I filter my water (health benefits) and no extra strain on production etc. also, I use ‘waste’ water (you know like when you wash your hands or brush your teeth?) I put the plug in the sink, and then put my plants in the sink until the water is gone. Not my vegetables you understand, just the plants I don’t intend eating at some point.
In the colder months, I even switch off my refrigerator. It’s true. I don’t need it. The weather is doing that for me.
(and I don’t broadcast my efforts, so not even ‘hot air’ is a contributing factor in my house lol).
And, as posted previously, I am currently trying to grow my own vegetables, so that will reduce plastic in its own right. It also means I am not contributing to pesticides and other emissions used in the whole process from ‘seed to table’.
Do I believe in Global Warming or Climate Change? Why not? I live on Earth and my eyes work. My memory is good enough that I remember how it was.
What I am trying to say here is, you don’t need to waste time listening to Governmental bodies arguing over truth and fiction, to know for yourself what is happening.
If YOU believe it’s true, then it is true. Do your best. It won’t be good enough, but at least you know you will have tried.