Polar Vortex Is Nothing To Laugh At

Incidents of Global Warming We Are Ignoring

Frozen Over: Ice floes fill the Hudson River in early January during an extreme cold spell that fell over most of the country.
Getty Images
Frozen Over: Ice floes fill the Hudson River in early January during an extreme cold spell that fell over most of the country.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published January 15, 2014, issue of January 17, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The new year elevated our national conversation to new heights of unreality, if that’s possible. Democrats in Washington presented 2014 as the year we tackle economic inequality, Congress permitting, which it won’t. Progressives fought to ensure we don’t forget immigration reform, gun safety and protecting abortion rights. Conservatives hoped to stand firm on budgets and roll back Obamacare.

And while Washington yacked, close to half the country couldn’t leave the house because of deadly cold. Nearly the entire continental United States was blanketed by frigid air in the second week of January. Two dozen states suffered record-breaking chill.

On this, our leaders had nothing to say.

Granted, it’s no big deal when towns and regions get cold. And sometimes whole sections of the country turn frosty at once. But when that big purple bad-weather swirl starts covering the whole map and half the continent is in full disaster mode, something’s going on.

If you’re tempted to giggle, go ahead. “Global warming brings winter chill?” Totally. Over at PJMedia.com the other day, online editor Rick Moran yukked that he had “just shoveled a foot of global warming off my driveway.” At Breitbart.com, Washington editor John Nolte chuckled about those “Global Warming-believing scientists” who sailed to Antarctica to see how the ice was melting, only to “run into a helluva lot more Antarctic ice” than anticipated. Good one.

And Rush Limbaugh reported that the “wackos” on the left have “come up with this phrase called ‘polar vortex’” to explain how global warming causes winter. Get it?

Well, not to spoil anyone’s fun, but that “polar vortex” thingie is just another name for the cold air above the Arctic Circle. Its perimeter is a cold wind, the polar jet stream, that circles the globe. They taught us about that in junior high. Maybe Rush was stoned that day.

Alert readers may recall me mentioning the jet stream before. It’s been acting funny lately. It seems that as the polar ice cap melts, the Arctic Ocean’s dark surface absorbs the sun’s rays instead of bouncing them back into space, as a solid ice sheet does. The warmer sea heats the air overhead a tad. This slows the jet stream, causing it to bulge southward in unpredictable ways. Cold Arctic air follows behind, like the air in a balloon when you squeeze it.

Southward distortions of the polar jet stream are nothing new. Lately, though, as the ice melts, they’re getting bigger and more frequent, with extreme consequences.

One bulge wandered over Greenland in October 2012 and collided with an Atlantic hurricane. Northbound hurricanes generally curve eastward and out to sea, often sideswiping New Jersey and Long Island as they go. But Hurricane Sandy bumped into the Greenland bulge and bounced westward, crashing head-on into the nation’s largest city. Factor in warming oceans, which increase storms’ intensity, and rising sea levels, which sent waves cascading over whole towns, and you have a natural disaster of historic proportions.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.