I Sense A Disturbance In The Vortex
Was it really barely a week ago that I wrote a post entitled “Let Winter Be Winter”? Yes, it was – only a few days ago I was complaining about our eerily mild temperatures. And the weather gods could not resist the opportunity to make me the straight man in a little joke. The weather gods are evil.
Now comes an article in The Washington Post entitled “The polar vortex has fractured, and the eastern U.S. faces a punishing stretch of winter weather”. Before getting to the substance of the article, I’d like to ask if The Washington Post has considered hiring any headline writers with a little more panache. Perhaps they could lure some talent away from The National Enquirer.
Also, what is a vortex, exactly? It has a definite science fiction ring to it: “We’ll need maximum warp drive to get through that vortex, captain!” Alternatively, it could be some kind of miracle fabric.
Apparently, though, the polar vortex is this high altitude band of extremely cold air that goes around and around in the vicinity of the arctic circle. When the polar vortex is calm, it entertains itself nicely and everything is fine. But if it is disturbed, it has a tantrum and throws streams of frigid air southward.
That’s how I understand it, anyhow. And now the northern polar vortex has been disrupted, and much of Canada and the USA is about to be put into the deep freeze. For more information, go read a blog by someone who actually knows stuff about science.
To a certain extent, I’m happy about the polar vortex. Within reasonable limits, a cold winter is a good thing, less confusing to plants and gardeners. Cold weather helps control pests for the following year, especially those trying to move in from warmer climes.
But there is a point when cold weather turns uncivilized. Uncivilized cold weather has three characteristics:
- The Cold Gets Painful. Which is to say, you go outside and you can feel your lungs and your nasal passages freeze. For me, that point is achieved somewhere between 15 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Beyond that the cold starts to feel unreasonable. FYI, winters in Chicago have gotten as cold as -27.
- Repeated Heavy Snowfalls. I hate shoveling snow, it is my least favorite chore. This is particularly true when the city plows repeatedly barricade our driveway with scale models of the Himalaya mountains.
- The Cold Won’t Go Away, Delaying the Arrival of Spring. This is what happened last year, and we may be about to go through the same thing again.
Are you anticipating colder temperatures from the polar vortex, and how do you feel about that?