Polar Vortex, Warming Paradox

January 7, 2014
posted in: 

By Dr. Anne Waple, Director of Communication and Science at Second Nature

If you're among the 200 million Americans who have been experiencing our recent, let's just say, chilly conditions, then you might be wondering if global warming has suddenly come to a screeching halt. Well, it turns out that far from being an indicator of a slow-down in global climate change, it's one more piece of evidence for increasing climate instability as a result of human-induced warming.

Linked to a decrease in sea ice extent and increased warming in the Arctic, the recent intrusion of very cold air into the continental U.S. is a result of the polar vortex weakening and allowing Arctic air to flow south. The polar vortex is the circulation pattern that typically fences cold air into the Arctic.  Below are several excellent descriptions of this phenomenon and its link to a warming planet.

While this recent event is not record-breaking for most of us and will be thankfully short-lived, it has caused significant impacts across much of the country, closing schools and businesses, shutting down transportation, interrupting power for some residents, and prompting emergency declarations in several cities and communities. 

A Few Explanations from Weather and Climate Experts:

Andrew Freedman at Climate Central

Union of Concerned Scientists

NASA's explanation of the current polar vortex intrusion

Washington Post Capital Weather Gang: polar vortex and global warming


Add new comment