What is Polar Vortex?
The polar vortex is a mass of cold, low pressure air existing around the Earth’s poles all year long. It gets weaker in summers and stronger in winters. In the northern hemisphere, the polar vortex can expand in winters and send cold air southward causing temperatures to drop dramatically in North America. It is called a vortex because it spins anti-clockwise like a hurricane. It is usually strong and stays compact over the Arctic regions. The concept of polar vortex is not a new one though it has became more popular recently, especially after the record-breaking low temperatures experienced in North America in the winters of 2014.Is it going to be back this winters?
Weather forecasts say that the polar vortex is going to make another uninvited visit to North America in the winters of 2016. Dangerous, bone-chilling cold temperatures and fierce winds are going to spread across much of the Midwest and Northeast U.S. over the next couple of days which could become more brutal over the weekend. Snowstorms and blizzard conditions are likely to add to the seasonal misery. Some places could experience their coldest December in several years. Temperatures may dip to 45 degrees below zero and the weather service has said that wind chills this cold can cause frostbite in fewer than 10 minutes.
Which areas are likely to be affected?
The areas spanning the northern Plains and Midwest U.S. are likely to be the first ones to be affected by the polar vortex. According to some weather reports, a wind chill temperature of 38 degrees below zero has been already recorded in North Dakota. The weather service has issued a wind chill advisory for the states of North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin besides parts of Midwest states Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois and the Northeast states of Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
How to prepare
It is better to take the necessary precautions before the polar vortex sets in and while the temperatures are still mild. As pipes freeze during quick temperature drops and poor insulation, make sure that your plumbing pipes are protected. There may be short or long phases of power breakdown so keep plenty of matches, candles, flashlights handy. Those having a wood-burning fireplace or stove at home may have some cut firewood ready.
Have a store of a few extra gallons of water, non-perishable food items as well as lots of blankets, sleeping bags and comforters. It’d also help to have a battery-powered radio, backup battery for your cell phone and computer and also a first-aid kit. You may also like to put together a winter car survival kit for your vehicle. Keep your gas tank at least half full for extreme cold weather. Be sure to equip your car with windshield scraper and brush, jumper cables, flashlights and extra batteries, first-aid kit, lots of drinking water, non-perishable food items, basic toolkit, shovel, gloves, hats, boots and jacket and an extra change of clothes, blankets or sleeping bags and a car charger for your cellphone.
US State Wise Temperature In 2014 Polar Vortex
|Description : Temperature map of the United States in Fahrenheit on Dec 20, 2016|
|Description : Map showing USA state wise weather alerts.|
Temperature in US cities on January 9, 2014
|Las Vegas||46°F (8°C)|
|Los Angeles||55°F (13°C)|
|New York City||21°F (-6°C)|
8th January: As the Polar Vortex continues its freezing impact over the US and Canada, it seems that even Hell has frozen over.
Hell freezes over
The unusually named town of Hell, Michigan, which has a population of just 200 people, faced snowy weather after the winter storm Hercules brought heavy snowfall to the area. With the Polar Vortex causing sub-zero conditions, the temperature in Hell dipped sharply to a low of -13 degrees with the windchill factor making it feel like -33 degrees.
Dos and Don’ts
Do stay indoors; wear warm clothing, dress in layers; have adequate nourishment including warm beverages; young children and the elderly should take particular care; stock up on essential medicines and food in-case your area becomes snowbound
Don’t venture outdoors unless absolutely necessary, don’t go out unless adequately protected against the freezing weather. If you have to drive make sure your vehicle has snow chains and that your windows are de-iced.
Non emergency: 311 (in some areas)
112 on GSM mobile phones will be redirected to 911
*677 Ontario Provincial Police in Ontario
*4141 Sûreté du Québec in Quebec
Non-emergency: 311 police or city services (in some areas)
How many states and people have been affected by the Polar Vortex in the US and Canada?
As many as 26 states across the US Midwest and East Coast are facing extreme cold wave conditions due to the impact of the Polar Vortex. As this swirling mass of cold air in the higher reaches of the atmosphere moves southwards, it has affected 140 million people across the US and 240 million people across the US and Canada.
When is it going to be over?
The Polar Vortex’s effect is likely to last till the end of this week. By early to mid next week temperatures are expected to be more moderate and return to the usual ranges of the 20s and 30s Fahrenheit in the Plains and Midwest, and the 40s Fahrenheit in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the US.
Why has the Polar Vortex Come South to the US this year?
The Polar Vortex is essentially a circumpolar wind, like a Polar hurricane, in the higher reaches of the atmosphere. Cold dense winds swirl around the North Pole and as they rotate, can become a distorted weather system that sends jet streams of cold air southward. The Polar Vortex often descends over Canada. Its possible that masses of warmer air over Greenland or Alaska met the cold stream and forced it southwards. As the cold mass of air moved over the United States it brought lower temperatures and freezing conditions to regions already hit by intense snowstorms in recent days.
Which are the major airports affected by the Polar Vortex?
Numerous flights have been canceled across the US and Canada as major airports have been affected by the Polar Vortex and accompanying bad weather. The top 3 airports affected by the snowy conditions are:
|Destination Airport||Number of Flights Canceled|
|Toronto Pearson Int’l (CYYZ)||107|
|Chicago O’Hare Intl (KORD)||102|
|Cleveland-Hopkins Intl (KCLE)||42|
|Toronto Pearson Int’l (CYYZ)||85|
|Chicago O’Hare Intl (KORD)||50|
|Cleveland-Hopkins Intl (KCLE)||47|
Other airports severely affected in recent days were Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Indianapolis International Airport, New York’s LaGuardia Airport, and JFK International Airport. Airlines that were hardest hit include American Eagle, ExpressJet Airlines, and JetBlue.
What is the impact on Travel and Tourism of the Polar Vortex?
The impact on travel and tourism was significant particularly on Monday 6th January as around 5,000 flights were canceled and another 10,000 delayed across the US and Canada. Record snowfall and sub zero temperatures also meant people stayed indoors and didn’t go out to shop, eat or sightsee.
What is the economic impact of the Polar Vortex?
Analysts are saying there will not be a significant negative impact due to the cold weather conditions, and if any it will be temporary. While there has been some impact on travel and tourism, due to canceled flights, etc., these are likely to be made up for in the days ahead as people reschedule their travel plans. Industries such as construction, petroleum refineries, and fisheries have been temporarily affected due to the cold weather but again are likely to resume operations as soon as possible.
Agriculture and livestock rearing have not been negatively affected by the weather as most commercial livestock operations have indoor rearing shelters now. There have already been positive gains for manufacturers and distributors of winter clothing, electrical heating appliances, generators, salt for spraying on roads and de-icing equipment. Businesses such as restaurants, entertainment venues and outdoor recreational sites have seen low or no attendance and faced losses, but are likely to recoup in February once the weather improves.
Will the Polar Vortex affect the US again this winter?
Meteorologists are still studying this extreme weather phenomenon and cannot conclusively say whether or not it will happen again this year.
Deep Freeze Spreads Across US
6th January: After snowstorm Hercules hit the north-eastern US and Canada last week, residents across many parts of north America are bracing for the onset of a Polar vortex that threatens to bring temperatures down to record lows.
A polar vortex is a weather system consisting of an anti-clockwise rotating mass of dense cold air, that usually forms near the North Pole and affects Canada. However, this year the Polar vortex is moving southwards and will affect the northern and eastern states of the USA.
The US National Weather Service said “an incredibly strong surge of bitterly cold Arctic air” was sweeping across the country until Tuesday. ” and “The coldest weather in years will be making its presence known from the Upper Mid-West to the Mid-Atlantic region for the beginning of the work week,” Authorities have issued a warning to residents to stay indoors, both to ensure their safety and to keep the roads clear for snow plows and relief vehicles.
Last week’s snowstorm has already brought record levels of snowfall to many places in the north-eastern US and the onset of the Polar vortex is likely to cause more extreme weather conditions with temperatures dipping further across the areas affected. Meteorologists predict that the risks of hypothermia and frostbite are high, as wind chills may cause temperatures to dip to -51C (-60F).
Last week Toronto, Canada, recorded a minimum of -29C (-20F) and Quebec City recorded -38C (-36F) the lowest recorded in at least two decades. Nearly 90,000 people were left without power in Newfoundland, Canada due to the snowstorm. With the onset of the Polar vortex temperatures are predicted to drop to -35C in northwestern Ontario, and the Canadian weather bureau issued a statement warning of more snowfall as the Polar vortex descends.
Already 16 people have been killed in the US as a result of accidents caused due to poor visibility or exposure to the cold. Around 4,000 flights have been canceled due to poor visibility and dangerous conditions in snowbound airports. A Delta Airways flight skidded off the runway at JFK Airport in New York on Sunday, and operations at the airport were suspended for two hours, though no one was hurt.
The US cities of New York, Connecticut, and Boston, Massachusetts were severely affected by heavy snowfall last week. The state of Minnesota has announced that schools should be closed on Monday, 6th January, to safeguard children and minimize travel on snowbound roads. Madison and Milwaukee in Wisconsin have also closed their schools, as has New York City. The new mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, was photographed shoveling snow in front of his home.
Weather forecasters predict that the temperature in Chicago, Illinois, will dip to -26C (-15F) and so will the lows in Indianapolis, Indiana, while the temperature in International Falls, Minnesota will drop to -35C (-31F) and the temperature in Fargo, North Dakota is expected to drop to -31C (-25F). With the added wind chill factor, weather forecasters warn that temperatures in central and northern US states could feel as low as -51C (-60F). The states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, South Dakota, and Ohio are predicted to be the worst hit.
Meanwhile in Wisconsin an NFL playoff game scheduled for Sunday between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers at the Lambeau Field was possibly the coldest game ever played with temperatures affected by the windchill feeling as low as -19C (-2F). The Green Bay Packers authorities provided fans with hand warmers and hot chocolate, while doctors advised die-hard fans who wished to see the game to wrap up in many layers of warm clothing.