New to the vernacular: the polar vortex

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, November 18, 2014 10:06 PM

Did we ever have polar votexes –  vortexi? – before the last couple of years? I’m fairly up on my news. I read the Washington Post every day. I visit There has been winter. There has been snow. I don’t remember the polar vortex making an appearance before last year.

Maybe it’s because I live in the Southwest were snow is loathe to visit. Lately, rain has been loathe as well.

Lake Erie was exploding this morning, with the areas of Buffalo, New York and Erie, Pennsylvania, which both sit on the lake, getting more than two feet of snow before 9 am. I remarked that it was a good thing Justin wasn’t in Fredonia anymore, which sits smack in the middle between Erie and Buffalo. He would be unhappy. Of course, he’s on his way to New Jersey to begin his new job with Disney. It won’t be too balmy. And for this he gave up Hawaii? We obviously didn’t raise him very well.

According to NBC, every state is supposed to be hit by this polar vortex, with temperatures unexpectedly low everywhere. I’m not sure Southern California got the memo since it’s still comfortably in the 70s and at night doesn’t seem to drop much lower than 50.

In Southern California I suppose that is considered serious brrrrrr weather.

In the desert, it’s been very brrrrr at night. Into the 20s and 30s already.

So while the polar vortex is pounding the great lakes regions, the North East, the upper plains, we’re just a little chillier than normal. There have been no calls for us to bring in our pets, not that such a call would affect us. Our pet doesn’t like to be outside ever. We might get a little rain on Friday. Brrrrr.

According to that most trusted of news sources, NBC, more than 100 cities could break records for cold temps tonight and Wednesday could be the lowest daily high ever so far for this time of year. Anchorage, Alaska was forecast to be 34º, 12º warmer than Tallahassee, Florida.

What’s happening out there? The polar vortex. A phenomenon that was first diagnosed in the 1850s, but that I had never heard of until earlier this year which strangely seems like last year. It was actually January 2014 when most people heard the term. That’s because the temperatures had plunged to life-threatening lows, in some places 60º below zero when the windchill was factored in. No wonder the weather reports said to bring in your pets.

Here’s what I found out. The polar vortex is a seasonal atmospheric phenomenon that involves a system of strong, high-level winds inside a very, very cold pocket of Arctic air. When it breaks down it results in a big, powerful blast of arctic air that pushes south causing cold temperatures in places that don’t usually get cold winters. Like Tallahassee.

The polar vortex sounds like it should be a movie. Like The Polar Express. It’s not. Instead, it’s now part of everyone’s vernacular.

Tonight it will be low 40s here. Maybe we’ll get to the high 30s. It will be mid 50s in Southern Cal. Meanwhile, Buffalo will be buried under more than 6 feet. That’s the polar vortex in action. I don’t know if it’s something to celebrate, but it’s definitely winter clearing her throat and living it out loud.

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live out loud

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