Why Utah will never have a 'polar vortex'

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  • jackGW Boulder, UT
    Feb. 2, 2019 5:54 a.m.

    From the weatherpeople at Weather Underground: "Sometimes an obscure scientific phrase jumps into the popular lexicon and spreads like wildfire. The phrase “polar vortex” has appeared in peer-reviewed journal articles since the 1950s, and it has been defined in the AMS Glossary for decades. It came into much wider use after science writer Andrew Freedman (now at Axios) began using it at Climate Central during the cold outbreak of January 2014."

  • reriding Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 2, 2019 12:23 a.m.

    toosmart, have you heard of dendrochronology, dating tree rings to the exact year they were formed? Tree growth rings can also reveal the climatic patterns from thousands of years ago, dendroclimatology. They don't say much about specific weather events, of course, but the pattern and average of weather events over time is a narrow definition of climate.

  • Cav Pilot St. George, UT
    Feb. 1, 2019 9:10 p.m.

    I remember the ‘85 cold snap well. My car wouldn’t start & I had to walk to high school that week. Brrrr

    Speaking of more record highs lately, can some one explain how all of those 18th & 19th century ships got stuck in the north end of Hudson Bay? Did the sailors carry the lumber and then build the ships in place before they starved/froze to death? I know the bay has been frozen for my entire life time (50+ years). I wonder if the globe was warmer back before farenheight invented his thermometer?

  • jackGW Boulder, UT
    Feb. 1, 2019 7:52 p.m.

    The jet stream exists all year, and is responsible for creating the high- and low-pressure systems that bring us our day-to-day weather: storms , warm and cold spells. Way above the jet stream, around 30 miles above the Earth, is the stratospheric polar vortex. Both of these wind features exist because of the large temperature difference between the cold Arctic and warmer areas farther south. Unneven heating creates pressure differences, and air flows from high-pressure to low-pressure areas, creating winds.
    Because of rapid Arctic warming, the north/south temp difference has diminished. This reduces pressure differences between the Arctic and mid-latitudes, weakening jet stream winds. And just as slow-moving rivers typically take a winding route, a slower-flowing jet stream tends to meander.
    Splits in the stratospheric polar vortex do happen naturally, butwe should expect to see them more often thanks to climate change and rapid Arctic warming.

  • toosmartforyou Kaysville, UT
    Feb. 1, 2019 5:42 p.m.

    Of course when I first read the headline I thought "That's because the cold spell was caused by global warming---just wait, someone will claim that was the reason---and enough people in Utah don't believe in global warming so it doesn't happen here!" That's as logical as blaming the cause on global warming, right?

    Weather patterns have been observed for a very short period of time and so to say we have a "drought" because we don't have "normal precipitation" is basing such an opinion on an extremely small sample. I recall in the 70's we were supposedly going into an ice age. The world has fluctuations and they're likely greater than those who observe weather patterns are willing to admit because they don't possess data from a several or even a few thousand years, just a few hundred at best, if that.

  • golong Washington, UT
    Feb. 1, 2019 5:03 p.m.

    Thanks Kevin, and while you're at it also clarify that we don't have monsoons in the US either. If you've ever been in a real monsoon, you know we don't get anything like that here. Our little late summer thunderstorms are not a monsoon!

  • wall71121 Taylorsville, UT
    Feb. 1, 2019 4:50 p.m.

    What? There's no such thing as a polar vortex?
    What about the movie "The Day After Tomorrow"?
    You mean to say that a Hollywood flick was factually inaccurate?
    I'm shocked, SHOCKED I tell you.

  • Schnee Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 1, 2019 4:34 p.m.

    There's a very specific mention of global warming that is being mentioned with this recent event. Actually there's two kinds of mentions.

    1. Global warming is being referred to as a contributor to a slowing jet stream, and that is a situation where it will meander more and make for more frequent cases of Arctic air reaching far to the south and warm air reaching far to the north. Global warming's contribution to the shifting odds of this kind of scenario is relevant information that provides a useful context.


    2. Not all who think global warming is a serious problem make accurate statements. Some inaccurately say cold records become more common and all forms of extreme weather become more common with global warming but we know from the data that whatever impact global warming has on shifting jet stream patterns, we're still getting fewer record lows (and many more warm records) compared to what would normally be expected for a dataset of this length if the Earth wasn't warming.

  • storm3033 Vernal, Utah
    Feb. 1, 2019 4:14 p.m.

    Clearly you do not live in the Uintah Basin. There was a sliver of this current polar air that affected NE Utah but then it moved on.

  • Vanceone Provo, UT
    Feb. 1, 2019 3:08 p.m.

    Hah, yeah, about 3 years ago I was driving to work in -20, -25 degree weather here in central Utah. Car didn't want to start much, as I recall.

    Local Democrats weren't screaming global warming then, I can assure you.