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This year, large portions of the planet have been experiencing extreme colds thanks to the “polar vortex.”
The polar vortex is a counter-clockwise spinning mass of cold air that hovers above the arctic. The vortex shrinks and expands with the passing seasons, but sometimes, the vortex sends cold air south, which causes low temperatures across the upper region of the globe.
We have already seen one large polar vortex in the US and Europe this year. In January a large gust of cold air came from the vortex, causing radically low temperatures in areas of North America. Temperatures reportedly reached as low as -45 Fahrenheit, which was lower than the temperature of Antarctica at the time.
There were 21 deaths reported in this January’s polar vortex, but those numbers could be even higher considering the number of homeless people that were exposed to the elements.
This week’s polar vortex is supposed to be even stronger and colder than the last. The unprecedented weather is expected to last for at least the first two weeks of March.
“Arctic air will dominate across Canada for the first 10 to 15 days of March, but if you are not a fan of extended mid-winter weather, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A pattern change is expected by mid-March, allowing much milder weather to dominate during the second half of the month,” the Weather Network says.
The polar vortex is a natural occurrence that has been happening for a long time, but many researchers suggest that it has gotten worse in recent years.
Meteorologist and owner of Empire Weather LLC., Ed Vallee, predicted that North America would be getting hit especially hard this week.
“A persistent anomalous cold will continue across the plains over the next week. This cold comes after a record cold February across this region, extending into the Canadian prairies. Heating demand will continue to run much above normal for Early March in this portion of the country with additional heating demand potential across the entire northern tier of the United States. In addition to the cold, yet another winter storm is forecast to impact the Northeast I-95 corridor Sunday into Monday with moderate to heavy snowfall expected,” Vallee said.
In northern areas, temperatures are expected to be at least 30 to 35 degrees below normal. This could mean temperatures as low as 15 below 0 in some areas.
“As of now, the coldest night looks to be Sunday night where lows will drop to 10 below to 15 below in our north. This will be near-record territory for some locations. Also, during this period either wind chill advisories or warnings may be needed, possibly for several nights,” the National Weather Service warned Tuesday.
The cold weather is even expected to reach as far as the Mexico border with Texas and into the Gulf of Mexico.
The vortex can also possibly bring snow to areas that have not seen it in an entire generation. In February, the desert city of Las Vegas in Nevada experienced its first large snowfall since 1949.
As a result of the snow and cold winds, gas and heating prices are expected to rise, and shortages are even expected in some of the most hard-hit areas. Energy Secretary Rick Perry warned Thursday that the Polar Vortex will be a “major test” of the country’s power grid.
“This is going to be a really deep, deep polar vortex all the way to my home state that will put a massive test upon our ability to deliver an energy supply to keep our citizens safe,” Perry said at a press conference last week.
Last week, residents of Princeton, Minnesota lost oil and heat in the midst of the brutal colds. One-hundred-and-fifty families in Princeton and 30 in Hugo lost natural gas service were left in the cold. The homes were without heat for over 3 days as workers rushed to restore service to the area. At the time, temperatures were as low as 35 degrees below zero Fahrenheit in Princeton. The gas company responsible for providing heat for the homes has purchased over 2000 space heated to give away to customers who are affected by the outage, but they say that a permanent solution will not be possible until the summer time when they are able to replace the infrastructure.