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Polar Vortex: Everything You Need to Know
By Hannah Fuchs
Let's not waste time. You will need: warm clothes, plenty of firewood and enough supplies (flour, yeast, toilet paper — the usual) to not have to leave the house for the next week or two.
No, just kidding. For pandemic control, it would be helpful if we all stayed home, but as a precautionary measure against the approaching polar vortex, this would really be over the top. It's probably indeed going to be bitterly cold in much of the Northern Hemisphere, but we're not in for an apocalyptic winter scenario.
In the past few years, especially during the cold North American winter of 2013-2014, the term "polar vortex" has been increasingly used in people's weather vocabulary and blamed — sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly — for any outbreak of wintry weather or very cold temperatures. So, for example, the unusual extreme snowfalls in Spain could have had something to do with the phenomenon. Key word here is could.
Out of this world! Spain is a winter wonderland right now. Bitterly cold after historic snow. Cencellada, Albacete… https://t.co/LwEvXSQ2tc— Scott Duncan (@Scott Duncan)1610469572.0
However, when we use phrases like "The polar vortex is coming" or "The polar vortex is here," we probably break the icy heart of every meteorologist. The polar vortex does not come and go — it is often present in our atmosphere during winter and spins around the hemispheres like a stormy roundabout, so to speak.
That actually means: There is not one vortex, but two — one at the North Pole and one at the South Pole. Their dynamics and potential are expressed with the help of the Arctic Oscillation and Antarctic Oscillation Index. To keep it short: AO and AAO.
What Exactly Is a Polar Vortex?
The Arctic polar vortex is a circulation of wind high up in the atmosphere — a very ordinary phenomenon, in other words. It forms every year in autumn, when the sun barely reaches the North Pole. In spring, it slowly dissipates again.
The air up there is extremely cold in winter. The polar vortex can strengthen and weaken. Wind speeds exceeding 320 kilometers per hour (200 miles per hour) are typical at an altitude of 10 to 50 kilometers (6 to 30 miles) in the stratosphere, where it is sometimes well below minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit). This is directly above the troposphere, the part where weather occurs.
The polar vortex thus has no direct effect on our weather, but there are still interactions: It influences the jet stream. This band of high velocity wind blows at an altitude of 10 kilometers (6 miles) and controls the high- and low-pressure systems.
In a typical winter, the jet stream is quite strong and brings mild windy and rainy weather from the Atlantic to Europe. The polar air stays in the vortex. However, if the jet stream is weak, there are bumps in the jet stream, and a polar vortex split could happen.
The Collapse: Will It Become Frosty Now?
Every now and then, about every two winters, there is a strong warming of the stratosphere due to warmer air flowing in. Greenland and the North Atlantic, for example, are said to throw the vortex particularly out of balance with their warmth.
Another split of the #PolarVortex is set to happen 15th-17th Jan. A stratospheric ridge noses in between two vortex… https://t.co/nPj0wmRuSc— James Peacock (@James Peacock)1610363099.0
The polar vortex stumbles — or rather squiggles — and air currents can assert themselves more frequently. This split causes temperatures in the stratosphere to rise by 60 to 80 degrees Celsius within a very short time.
To put it more graphically, you can imagine a flying circle of pizza dough that is jerking through the air out of shape. In the worst case, the pizza (the vortex!) loses its shape completely or even splits.
Then there is a lot of whirling up there, which also has an effect on the entire Northern Hemisphere: Arctic air provides for icy temperatures.
This is exactly what happened on January 5, 2021, and will probably hit us again soon. Forecasters say we can expect the cold snap in mid to late January, and it could last in spurts into February. Again, key word: could.
Or Maybe Not ...
But the phenomenon of the interaction between the polar vortex and wind circulation is complicated — and not yet fully understood. Meteorologists disagree on whether there really will be a freezing winter onset.
A strong example of knock-on effect in latest #Forecast model runs. The further west a low moves cold air (C) Mond… https://t.co/qnE7piXtH3— James Peacock (@James Peacock)1610620050.0
The reason: the approaching Atlantic depressions. They are supposed to cause the winter air to move from the west further to Russia, and the snow line is supposed to rise to over 1,000 meters. But that does not mean that it will stay that way for the rest of winter. The cold may well return.
In the end, the weather just does what it wants — whatever our forecasts.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
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Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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