Thursday, January 09, 2014

The Vortex Update

True to form as predicted, the Rush of Wind on the radio claimed the polar vortex was something liberals made up for this week.  Today Show meteorologist Al Roker tweeted a copy of the 1959 definition, a clear example of ultra liberal time travel, or an Obamabot rewriting history.

Andy Borowitz at the New Yorker headlined: 

Polar Vortex Causes Hundreds of Injuries as People Making Snide Remarks About Climate Change Are Punched in Face

However, there were some new words added to my vocabulary as a result of the vortex weather, like freezing fog and frost quakes.  Frost quakes were reported not only in Ontario but in Maine, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hint: not a breakfast cereal. 

Meanwhile, the polar vortex-delivered Arctic-like weather killed at least a score of people, cost the U.S. $5 billion in lost revenue, and was responsible for the lowest temperatures so far this century for a number of U.S. cities.  All 50 states experienced freezing temps at some point this week.  

Monday, January 06, 2014

The Vortex

As I write this--after midnight Sunday in the Midwest and Eastern time zones--many places there have already recorded their high temperature for Monday.  Monday and Tuesday (in some places Wednesday) will be more dangerously cold than any days in at least 20 years there.  The upper Midwest (Minnesota, North Dakota) was already freezing on Sunday, also hit by snow and wind (up to 10 inches in Chicago.)
Further east in Indianapolis and in Ohio the combination of wind, frigid cold and ice are already closing highways as well as schools and businesses.

 From a relatively balmy Sunday, Pittsburgh goes into the deep freeze Monday and Tuesday, and is scheduled to emerge to another balmy day on Wednesday.  Very cold temps and wind will eventually extend not only along the northern East Coast but deep into the South, with single digit temps forecast for Charlotte and Atlanta.  All kinds of low temp records are likely to be broken over much of the country.

Cities like Chicago and Pittsburgh are taking this especially seriously because a lot of people think they know what cold is, but they don't.  They simply haven't experienced it, or at least not in a very long time.  And with windchills possible to 50 or even 70 below, even brief exposure can mean frostbite or worse.  This is dangerous weather.

Down in Washington (where a forecast Zero will break its record) there will be wags chortling (especially since Congress reconvenes Monday) that obviously there's no global warming going on here .  Of course by now only the purposely ignorant can ignore that global heating models have shown effects including heavy snowfalls and frigid temps.  But it seems a lot of people make a very good living being purposely ignorant.

But this may be an even more specific example of a global heating effect.  One prominent theory (being promoted as fact in headlines) is that these literally Arctic temps are due to a "polar vortex," the Arctic's equivalent of a super-cold hurricane.  Because these frigid winds whip around in a circle they usually stay in the Arctic, but this may be a weakened polar vortex that has partly blown south--and one prominent theory is that it has been weakened by warmer air as a result of the melting of Arctic ice, which is a result of global heating.

NOAA scientists suggest this as they study other evidence for a "warm Arctic/cold continent" effect.  Data from 2009 and 2010 suggest this is a pattern.  But the idea that Washington would be hit with dangerously cold temperatures as a result of the climate crisis was already dramatized in Kim Stanley Robinson's Science in the Capital trilogy (2004-7.)  So it's not a new idea.

Of course, the skeptics can take the colder winter temperatures, figure in the hotter summers, and come up with a temperate average that will gosh just prove that this climate crisis isn't happening at all.  This is what happens in the circular winds of Washington.

The Other F Word

Okay, I'm going to sneak this in like the addict I apparently am.  The NFL playoffs have begun.  As I predicted, the "defending champion" Ravens stunk this year and didn't even make it as a Wild Card team.  As I sadly predicted, the Steelers didn't get in either, although they came exceptionally close: if a call hadn't been blown (that the League admits was blown) that gave San Diego a victory in their last game, the Steelers would have been a Wild Card, and would probably have defeated the Bengals Sunday.  And then gone up against Denver a decided underdog next week, but with the advantage most eventual champions have--of peaking at the end of the season.  I think the Steelers probably would have a chance against Denver if Manning had an off-day, but New England as well?  Probably not. So it is interesting that at least the sportswriters in Pittsburgh aren't crying much about it--they don't think the Steelers deserved to be in playoffs.  

I'm sure everybody in the League office who cares about money is praying for a Denver-New England playoff game, which could reach Super Bowl proportions in TV viewership.  And they wouldn't cry too much if one of those teams wound up facing San Francisco in the SB, because this year the quarterback is the story.  Peyton Manning is the biggest potential story, but you've also got Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick, even Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, the ancient Brees and Rivers  or the Seattle phenom Wilson.

You have to like Denver at home over overmatched San Diego.  Indianapolis and New England is a potentially fun game, especially since both teams--and both quarterbacks--can come back big in the second half, the fourth quarter.  That game won't be over til it's over. Kevin Seifert is picking the Niners to win it all, much like the Steelers did when they were the first to get there on the road.  They'll have to get past Carolina, and western fans particularly are looking forward to a San Francisco-Seattle game the following week.  So the dream matchups are Denver-New England and SF-Seattle.  If the past is a guide, at least one of those teams won't be there.

Now I'll shut up about football, an increasingly troublesome game, with more injuries and bad behavior than ever in the NFL, and the truly awful stats on repetitive brain injuries at any level. (Seifert praising the Niners for wearing short sleeves or their coach for not wearing his parka in near-zero temps at Green Bay is sickening. Is frostbite so manly? What kind of example is that?)  It's potentially still a good game, but not as it is played today on any level.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Dreaming Up Daily Weekly Quote

“Peace begins in thought. Thoughts enworded go from mind to mind, and mind makes the world. Peace, illusive, abstract, negative Yin, dream, would take a long writing-out to make real. Its book has to be longer than war books—longer than a bumper sticker, longer than a sound bite. As we read, neuropeptides in the brain grow longer, longer than in nonreaders. Thought becomes body. Sudden fast change is a method of war. The logic of peace has to be spoken out at length.”

Maxine Hong Kingston
The Fifth Book of Peace