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Remember how things went extreme in terms of cold in the US and Canada towards the end of last year? Well, it’s about to happen. It’s coming. The polar vortex is around the corner. And this time it looks more threatening.
It’s back! Roaring with anger. Ready to engulf parts of the United States of America and Canada.
The central, as well as the eastern United States of America, is about to witness a mass of the polar vortex. Its unwelcomed visit will affect many locations—and with some of the most chilling temperatures.
Over the next few days, temperatures will struggle to rise above freezing point.
Over the weekend, the cold is projected to sweep into the Northeast. Daytime will certainly struggle to get into the 30s.
Also, snow together with cold will be coming in areas like the central Plains on Wednesday night and extend into Thursday. It’s also predicted that two to six inches of snow will appear.
Snow will be the order of the day. Friday and Saturday will be characterized by heavy snow—especially near the Great Lakes. Additionally, heavy like lake-effect snow is likely to be seen in the Snowbelt areas of the Michigan, Ohio, New York, as well as Pennsylvania.
The Lake-Effect Snow
During this time, lake-effect snow—lasting from minute’s to weeks—tends to fall from the clouds. This results from a freeze, dry arctic-like air pass over a comparatively mild lake. According to the weatherman, these snows only occurs in two periods—the fall and early winter.
The frigid air will pass over the still-warm like Great Lakes. This will bring lake-effect snow. In fact, this could be the first major lake-effect snow to occur in recent times.
Understanding the Polar Vortex
The polar vortex refers to a large area near the Earth’s poles that are often characterized by low pressure as well as cold air. Though it always exists around the poles, it becomes weaker during summer and stronger during winter. Wondering what vortex means? Don’t worry. It’s the counter-clockwise movement of air that actually keeps the colder air around the Poles.
In the winter season, the northern hemisphere’s polar vortex usually expands, sending cold air towards the south with a jet stream. This is widely associated with massive Arctic air outbreaks in the United States of America. Some of the notable cold outbreaks include those that were witnessed in 1977, 1982, 1989, and 2014. However, it’s important to note that this weather feature is also experienced in parts of Europe and Asia. By itself, the polar vortex isn’t dangerous to humans but you must be prepared for extremely cold temperatures. Check your areas forecast to ensure you’re groomed appropriately. Plus, you should ensure that you have got the right emergency kits to keep yourself ready for any form of hazardous winter weather.
The polar vortex was discovered in the year 1952 with radiosonde observations. It occurred at altitudes greater than 20 kilometers.
Polar Vortex, Weather Impacts, and Stratospheric Warming
Polar vortices are usually strongest during the winter period and weakest during summer. When the polar vortex is at its weakest point, extratropical cyclones migrate into greater latitudes, creating smaller vortices (referred to as cold-core lows) around the polar air mass. These particular vortices can actually last more than one month.
Volcanic eruptions occurring in the tropics may result in a stronger polar vortex after a period of two years. The polar vortex’s strength and position shape the pattern of air flow in the surrounding area. Its magnitude in the northern hemisphere is usually gauged in terms of the Arctic oscillation index.
At its strongest point, the Arctic vortex usually stretches, forming 2 cyclone centers, one over northeast Siberia and the other over Canada’s Baffin Island. At its weakest point, the Arctic pattern causes subtropic air masses to intrude poleward moving the Arctic air masses towards the equator. In the Northern Hemisphere, the distribution of land masses triggered by the Arctic vortex at higher latitudes result in Rossby waves which cause the polar vortex’s breakdown, while in the southern hemisphere the polar vortex is less disturbed. This breakdown is an extreme event referred to as sudden stratospheric warming, where the vortex breaks down completely and warming of 30 to 50 0C can occur for a couple of days.
This phenomenon usually arises from the movement of mass as well as the transfer of heat around the polar region. During autumn, the circumpolar winds move at higher speeds, causing the polar vortex to rise into the stratosphere. This results in the formation of a rotating air mass, known as the polar vortex. At the onset of winter, the vortex core becomes cooler, the winds decrease in strength, and the vortex weakens. The northern polar vortex usually breaks down between mid-March and mid-May. And this signifies the shift from winter to spring, which significantly impacts on the planting season, hydrological cycle, as well as the overall ecosystem productivity.
The transition also causes significant changes in air temperature, sea ice,
cloudiness, as well as ozone. Because of increased movement of waves into the vortex, rapid warming may occur leading to an earlier breakup and onset of spring. Earlier breakups are characterized by persistent vortex remnants whereas, in late breakups, the remnants dissipate more rapidly. An early breakup causes one warming period (February to March) while a late breakup triggers two warming periods (January and March). Geopotential height, zonal mean temperature, and wind exert varied deviations from their standard values before and after an early breakup, whereas the deviations remain constant during a late breakup. Scientists believe that delayed Arctic vortex breakup is caused by a reduction in the planetary wave activities, depletion of the ozone layer, and reduced stratospheric sudden warming events.
Weaker polar vortices usually trigger sudden stratospheric warming events. And this reverses the circulation of air and mass within the Arctic Vortex from counter-clockwise to the clockwise direction.
The Polar Vortex and Climate Change
A study conducted in 2001 established that stratospheric circulation may have adverse effects on weather patterns. It was also found that a statistical correlation existed between weak polar vertices and severe cold outbreaks in the northern hemisphere. In addition, scientists have identified interactions between climate change and reduced snow cover, weather anomalies, Arctic sea decline, and evapotranspiration patterns. However, it’s important to note that climatology observations demand several years of research to comprehensively differentiate between natural variability and climate trends.
Generally, it’s assumed that reduced snow cover plus sea ice reflect minimal amounts of light, leading to increased evaporation as well as transpiration. This, in turn, impacts on the polar vortex’s temperature and pressure gradient, making it weaken or even collapse. And this becomes apparent when you see the jet amplitude increasing meanders in the northern hemisphere, moving Rossby waves to the south/north and transporting warmer air to the northern pole and polar air towards lower latitudes. As the polar vortex weakens, the jet stream amplitude heightens increasing the chance for weather patterns to become blocked. The most recent blocking occurred when an extremely high-pressure over Greenland drove Hurricane Sandy into the Mid-Atlantic States.
The Antarctic vortex has led to severe ozone depletion. The polar stratospheric clouds contain nitric acid, which reacts with chlorofluorocarbons forming chlorine that catalyzes the photochemical destruction of the ozone layer.
Chlorine concentrations become higher during winter, and the resultant ozone destruction is severe when the sunlight comes back in spring. Since there’s a massive exchange of air between the Arctic region and the mid-latitudes, the level of ozone depletion around the north pole isn’t as severe as that witnessed at the south.
The Polar Vortex: The Cities Most Affected
The following cities have experienced severe effects of the polar vortex.
The low temperatures experienced in the Midwest was the worst weather ever and the people of Indianapolis suffered adversely.
The subzero temperatures witnessed in Cleveland recently were the lowest in ten to fifteen years. This increased the need for shelters plus assistance to the homeless.
The people of Chicago might be used to cold weather, however, the polar vortex has triggered a level of frigidness they aren’t accustomed to. A low of 150C was recorded in the city in January. The good news is that there are numerous warming cities located across the city for those in need of shelter and heat.
On January 7, Detroit the residents of Detroit witnessed record-breaking low temperatures that led to 6 deaths. DRMM (Detroit Rescue Ministries) is currently providing emergency shelter for the homeless until the weather conditions improve.
Minneapolis is another location that has experienced a low temperature of 23 0C.
Be Prepared: The Prices of Natural Gas Will Go High
Plus, in those heavier snow bands, the snow could be pilling and even require plowing as well as shoveling. According to experts, this cold focus will send the prices of natural gas up. Word has it that, if this cold continues, the price of natural gases could rise to as high as $6 for every one million British thermal units. These prices have never been experienced since the last vortex that lurched the USA into the extreme cold in 2004.
The Imminent Polar Vortex: What You Should Expect
The Polar Vortex is about to happen. Over the next few weeks, you’ll experience extreme weather conditions. And the frigid temps characterized season is about to rock the USA.
Until today, Hawaii has witnessed more snow than any other USA contiguous 48. According to the Washington Post, a grueling gust of Arctic air is about to plunge the Lowe 48(i.e. the northern half of it) in 5-7 days—dispensing the most frigid air in the USA history.
In 2004, a record-breaking Polar Vortex engulfed the United States of America—resulting in subzero wind chilling temps. The US hasn’t witnessed the deep freeze that dominated 2004. The cold spell started on Thursday morning in areas like Montana, Colorado, North Dakota, as well as Wyoming—recording zero temperature. This is likely to spread towards the east advancing to the Great Lakes region by Thursday and Friday. The Northeast is will likely experience it over the weekend.
According to the weatherman, Chicago is likely to hit 25 F on both Friday and Saturday. However, Boston may struggle to reach freezing over the weekend.
Polar Vortex: How to Stay Safe
The polar vortex is around the corner. It comes with extreme weather conditions—including those chilling temps and sweeping winds. And for those suffering from certain health conditions, things can be tricky and dampening. That’s why it’s important to get prepared and know how to handle the whole thing. The following tips will help you stay safe during these chilling moments.
1. Suffering From Chronic Conditions? You Need To Be More Careful
Chronic conditions like heart diseases, diabetes, as well as high blood pressure don’t go together with cold. According to medical experts, it can be risky( especially if you are engaging in those shoveling and physical activities). The snow tends to shrink your blood vessels—exposing you to a risk of developing a heart attack. This can be more dangerous to those with a history of hypertension and stroke.
2. Avoid Drinking Or Shoveling
Don’t shovel after a cup of tea, coffee, or beverage. Remember, drinking can make you dehydrated. Even more, taking alcohol can lead to heat loss and impair your judgment. In this case, it will be hard for you to determine how cold it is outside. Thus, if you start if you feel dizzy. And if you feel dizzy, take regular breaks. If you experience difficulty breathing, call 911. Plus, purchase more safe winter products before the Polar Vortex sets in and keep yourself, family, and pet safe.
3. Go for Smaller Shovels
Lifting heavy snow can raise your blood pressure. So, it’s recommended that you lift smaller amounts when clearing the delivery. Alternatively, you can use a blower when pushing the snow. Important: ensure you bend—otherwise, you may be welcoming those muffling back injuries.
4. Equip Your Dominant Hand with Something
Your dominant hand should hold an object or even a bag. This may help avoid breaking that dominant hand of yours if you accidentally fall on the ice. Remember, fall tend to happen so fast. Thus, you’ll be tempted to instinctively break your fall using the dominant hand. However, if you hold a bag or any other object with your dominant hand, you’re less likely to use it in case you fall.
5. Weather Forecasts
Ensure that you are in a position to receive all the latest weather updates in real time. You are recommended to have the following:
- Sign up with a reliable weather forecaster. Have their mobile phone number.
- Purchase a weather radio. It will help you get all the broadcasted weather updates. Plus, it will alert you in case there are dangers.
- Ensure you have spare, fresh radio batteries. This is particularly important in case your home’s power gets destroyed.
6. Emergency Supplies
Those who live in areas that experience Polar Vortex, it’s important to have the following ready:
- Firewood. This will help you stay warm, prepare your means—even if your electricity gets destroyed.
- Non-perishable food. This is particularly important if your power gets destroyed.
- Emergency-based equipment. Have a generator as well as flashlight ready.
- Clean drinking water. During this period, pipes get frozen and bursts are common. Thus, it’s important to ensure that you have plenty of clean water in your house for drinking and cooking.
- Ensure that all your communication gadgets are charged. Charge your phone and battery.
Other Quick Tips Of Staying Safe This Polar Vortex
During this incoming Polar Vortex, ensure you get prepared. Some of the quick tips you should embrace include:
- Look for means of getting regular weather forecasts as well as storm updates in real-time.
- Get an emergency supply that can help you and your family stay warm as well as safe—especially during the storms.
- Make sure your home is prepared. Ensure that the pipes are well fitted, the roofs are not leaking, and the indoor has the comfort for you and your family.
- Car preparations. Ensure that you are equipped with antifreeze plus ice removal equipment.
Staying Outdoors: The Safety Tips
Avoid going outdoors—especially when a warning is issued. If you must go out, ensure you have the correct attire that will help you stay warm. Otherwise, try always to stay indoors. Additionally, ensure that you:
- Purchase more clothes. Then wear them in multiple layers. Have a hat, water-resistant jacket, as well as a scarf. Additionally, wear heavy boots. Plus, you can also purchase Traction Magic from Gaia Enterprises for a safer Polar Vortex.
- Try to remain dry. Avoid getting into contact with water. Remember, water can make you cold and lead to diseases.
- Use a blower when de-icing your car. Also, don’t expose your skin to alcohol or even gasoline.
- Pay attention to how you feel. Never ignore shivering. If your shivers are persistent, get inside as soon as possible.
- Avoid ice. Stay indoors. You might fall on ice-covered pavements, trenches. Sidewalks, or even curbs. To keep your porch, driveway, or sidewalks ice-free, get ice melter. Alternatively, you can use de-icing chemicals to keep these areas free of ice. And if you want to keep your pet safe, purchase pet safe melt from Safe Paw.
The Polar Vortex is coming. And it’s coming with lots of risks. If you don’t prepare well, your family, property, and even pets are at risk. It’s therefore important to be prepared. Know whom to call when things get out of hand. Get weather updates in real-time. Prepare your home adequately. Stay safe. Happy Polar Vortex!