Millennium Post

Pole dance and a vortex of freeze

It looks like a studio set from the Hollywood film The Day After Tomorrow. As America fights with the bitter chill induced by the Arctic air blast, plunging parts of it in temperatures that are colder than Mars, the world watches and wonder if global warming is, ironically enough, a cause of the deep freeze. Fountains in Georgia have turned into ‘crystal still-lives’, Lake Michigan has frozen over and every state of the US have recorded subzero temperatures, effectively creating jaw-dropping sights of snow and ice-clad white everywhere. The lethal chill, a result of a weakened polar vortex, or a convection of air currents that keeps the Arctic air blast contained at the poles, is spreading southwards, ushering in freezing temperatures as far south as Florida, is sending people into an arctic scare and widespread panic. Harrowed people are glued to their thermostats, and escalated central heating is already putting a strain on the countrywide power grid, with southern states consuming record amounts of electricity to warm their homes. While it indeed makes for a spectacular sight, over two dozen have died of frostbite, and animals too, perhaps adapting to milder winters, thanks to the definite rise in global temperature levels over the years, are finding it difficult to cope with the whimsies of nature.

Obviously, the US mid-west is not used to arctic sunrises and the cold desert like conditions of the North Pole. With temperatures dipping to unbelievable lows, such as -52 ‘ C in Montana, and in the range -40-50’C range in parts of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North and South Dakota and other states, boiling water instantly turned to snow. Having temperatures colder than those in Mars, given the Red Planet is 78 million miles further away from the Sun, is probably a cause for concern. In fact, as the climate change deniers are now trying to claim, the deep freeze is not contrary to the vicious cycle of global warming, but rather, it could be one of the reasons why the air convection, that guarded the Arctic Circle and prevented the rest of the planet from the cold blast, lost its force, weakening and dissipating, creating a low pressure system that let out the Siberian-like currents of chill. What needs to be probed as soon as possible is the composition of the air in the convection belt, and whether chemical changes in it have induced the drastic dilution. Once again, what we must recognise at this point is that we are still lightyears away from understanding the weather and climate patterns on Earth itself, even as we set out to conquer the outer space.
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