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!
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • 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.