Dreaded Polar Vortex May Be Shifting – Scientific American

Credit: BENJAMIN LIPSMAN Flickr

The polar vortex in recent years has brought the kind of miserable cold to northern states that made it hard to breathe outside. We’re probably in for more of the same.

That’s the finding of a new study published yesterday in the journal Nature that finds that as the Arctic warms, it is shifting the polar vortex to Europe. That in turn will bring more bursts of frigid cold to North America.

Those temperature drops could lead to miserable days in February and March, the research finds. Conversely, those drops in temperature could offset some of global warming’s effect in those regions, said Martyn Chipperfield, professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of Leeds and a co-author of the paper.

“Climate change can lead to extremes; it’s not like a regular change, everyone to the same extent at all times and places,” he said. “Despite the overall warming, you can get in places like the Northeastern U.S. extreme cold events. That’s consistent with climate change and global warming.”

The polar vortex is a fast-moving band of air that encircles the frigid Arctic in winter months and traps it there. Its movement is part of a decadeslong change.

The polar vortex has actually “shifted persistently” away from North America and into Europe and Asia over the last 30 years, researchers found. That results in cooling over North America but warmer winters in Europe.

As global warming decreases sea ice, the sun’s warmth absorbed by the ocean is instead released from the ocean for a longer period of time, which disrupts the vortex.

…(read more).

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