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Why Is It So Cold?

February 12, 2019
By Anesa McGregor , Emmetsburg News

Like everyone else, I complained two weeks ago of the cold. It wasn't just cold; it was brutal. And like many, I stayed home Tuesday and Wednesday that week. My colleagues that made it to work did experiments outside with bubbles and hot water in weather that was colder that Alaska and even Antarctica was warmer than us. Just so yoi know bubbles freeze instantly and if you throw boiling water into air that is -60 degrees below zero, it will instantly turn to a frost like substance.

I thought back to around October, when meteorologists said it looked as if we were heading for another El Nino this winter.

Here I was looking forward to warmer than normal temperatures and below normal snowfall. Boy were the meteorologists so far from wrong.

Flashing back to Tues., Jan. 29, for those who don't remember. At 12:07 p.m. it was -8 below zero with a wind chill of -40 below. By 10 p.m., it was -21 below zero air temperature with a wind chill of -61 below zero and by 11:30 p.m. -24 below zero with a wind chill of -64 below. I don;t ever remember it being this cold before. Believe it or not Juneau, AK was almost 40 degrees warmer!

Why is this happening? Doing some thinking, I remember hearing about the polar vortex breaking.

Actually there are two polar vortices - on over Antarctica and one over the Arctic. They exists because the air over the poles is extremely cold pockets of air that are surrounded by a system of strong, high-level winds. Although it may sound like a vicious force in nature, which it can be, the winds actually create a dividing line that keeps us in the Midwest from freezing.

Every now and then, something happens which causes the polar vortex to breakdown and the cold air moves in. Not just cold air but bitter cold air that can freeze skin in less than five minutes if exposed.

There was a sudden stratospheric warming over the North Pole (almost a 60 degree temperature change) caused the winds that normally blow counterclockwise around the cold air to reverse direction allowing the cold air mass to break into three pieces giving us such brutal temperature changes. Cold air is able to move south toward Europe, Russia and Canada eventually moving as far south as Iowa.

According to the National Weather Service, in January, there was a warm up in the stratosphere causing the winds to influence the jet stream over North America to block the negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation, the fluctuation in sea level pressure on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

After a peak warmth, the air will turn cold weaks later, about when we did. It is possible that frigid temperatures will remain into March and although I say?I will never complain about how hot it gets, I will. Just as I complain about the cold. Stay Warm Everyone.



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