Polar vortex sets record low temps, deep-sixes global warming
by Don McKee
January 08, 2014 12:09 AM | 1951 views | 4 4 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don McKee
Don McKee
Where is global warming when we need it?

The mercury fell to 5 degrees at our house in the early hours of Tuesday morning. That was the reading from the Weather Channel, which I monitored through the night. The temperature dropped fast after dark, going from 17 degrees to 11 degrees by 11 p.m. and hitting 5 degrees by 5 a.m.

It was by far the coldest night in a couple of decades, punctuating the bitter cold we’ve had recently along with most of the rest of the country. The Weather Channel reported record lows were set Tuesday morning in at least 45 places, including Atlanta’s 6 degrees (previous record 10), Macon’s 11 (previous, 14), and Birmingham’s 7 versus its old record of 11 degrees.

None of those readings begins to compare with the really, really cold places like Chicago, which saw the mercury plunge to 16 degrees below zero and Detroit where it hit minus 14. In New York, the temperature in Central Park fell to 4 degrees, breaking the old record of 6 degrees set in 1896.

All this frigid air is brought to us by what’s called a polar vortex, the swirling wind pattern above the North Pole that typically affects winter weather down here but not like this, of course. The reason for the invasion of the polar winds is a powerful high pressure system from the Eastern Pacific that reached up to the North Pole and pushed the vortex farther southward than is typical, according to the National Weather Service.

That scenario is made much worse and of longer duration because one of the areas most affected, the upper Midwest, is more than 98 percent snow-covered. More than 76 percent of the entire Midwest is covered by snow, and 100 percent of the upper Great Lakes region is blanketed with the white stuff.

The good news is that Florida’s citrus groves escaped sub-freezing temperatures, the growers association reported, and even the more-susceptible vegetable crops apparently were not damaged. The bad news is that cattle traders in Chicago were concerned the extreme cold “would cause weight loss in feed yards, further diminishing the available supply of beef,” according to agweb.com. Result: Cattle futures hit all-time highs Monday, presaging even higher beef prices, already sky high.

On the good news front, whatever the shortcomings of Cobb EMC, the good folks operating the system kept the power flowing to our heat pump, which is setting a record for continuous operation. It’s been running almost nonstop for days. And no doubt the bill for this month is going to be astronomical.

Meanwhile, amid these subfreezing temperatures, where is Al (Chicken Little) Gore? In 2008 he predicted the entire North Polar cap “will disappear in five years” — which would have been 2013. But instead, New American reported, the ice covers in both the North and South polar regions have expanded.

The polar vortex is deep-sixing global warming.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
RL Bays
January 15, 2014
McKee’s column “Polar vortex sets record low temps deep sixes global warming” Jan. 8, is yet another painful illustration of abject scientific illiteracy. Allow me to use his column to help readers recognize what scientific illiteracy looks like.

First on terms; everyone who can read should by now know that weather does not equal climate. Donald Trump, Don McKee, and a host of other climate contrarians seem to struggle with this fact. Dictionaries are your friends, use them.

Second on evidence; related to the first point, a sudden drop in temperature for a few days where you happen to live is not sufficient evidence to contradict the decades of scientific evidence which show the average temperature of the planet is warming. Don’t be willfully ignorant.

Third on sources; the New American is a publication of the John Birch Society. Scientific information should be gathered from scientific sources, not magazines which reside on an ideological fringe of the political spectrum. Even if the New American had it right, it would not be a credible source. Understand that credibility matters.

Finally on half-truths; this statement, “ice covers in both the North and South polar regions have expanded,” is both vague and misleading. Ice covers and polar regions? Is Mr. McKee talking about continental polar ice shelves, which are unequivocally receding, or is he talking about polar sea ice coverage, which ebbs and flows with each season? Is he talking about just this season or does he mean over the past thirty years? And so on. Use critical thinking skills to analyze claims.

One needs to recognize that statements such as, “it’s cold outside therefore global warming isn’t real,” or “some ice somewhere is increasing, therefore global warming isn’t real,” are nothing but bite-sized non-sequiturs set out to feed the confirmation bias machine. Neither claim deserves a seat at the grown-up table when discussing actual scientific evidence.

January 09, 2014
Obviously one cold spell does not mean that we are not warming our planet to a possible point of killing our species. Did you not learn critical thinking in school or are you just following the tea party morons? I laugh at your take because it is so rediculous, something I would expect from a grade school student.
Guido Sarducci
January 10, 2014
And I laugh at your atrocious spelling and sentence structuring.
January 08, 2014
July, 2013:

NEW YORK — From South Dakota to Massachusetts temperatures surged to potentially dangerous levels Wednesday as the largest heat wave of the summer stretched out and stagnated, with relief in many parts of the country still days away.

Most states in the U.S. had at least one region where the temperature hit 90 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, though the worst heat was in the Midwest to Northeast. Humid air just made it all feel worse, with heat indexes in some places over 100.

*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides