Last week the classic story of Humpty Dumpty was shaken up a bit with a non-existent wall and a famous egg. This week, the US had a very different problem on its hands. This past week states such as Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan, looked like the backdrop for the doomsday movie The Day After Tomorrow. Trains tracks on fire, lake Michigan with its large sheets of ice, frozen beards, and people demonstrating the cold by throwing boiling water into the air. The latter shows the beautiful side of nature, where the freezing temperatures turn boiling water to crystallised vapour. I’ve even seen someone throw their coffee into the air; a waste if you ask me.
However, despite the beauty and great photo opportunities, this cold is anything but pretty. In this Polar Vortex temperatures have reached – 60,5oC (I had to use a converter here, the Imperial system makes no sense to me), leaving you with the risk of catching frostbite in minutes while the homeless froze to death on the streets. People have stockpiled supplies and the all too familiar photographs of empty supermarket shelves are back. It seems that whenever the weather becomes a bit more extreme, people really do think it is The Day After Tomorrow.
While it’s not the end of the world, a Polar Vortex of this magnitude is alarming. This low pressure area is as persistent as it is dense (just like several people that I know), this artic air hovering over North America like a curse. The freezing records of 1985 have been broken in several places as the Vortex hangs lower over the US than usual. For that reason, far less is said about how Canada is doing in all this. The stereotype that they love the cold seems to be keeping them out of the news.
In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming? Please come back fast, we need you! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2019
One reason why this year’s Polar Vortex is all the rage, is because of its instability. The Arctic has been warming up causing fluctuations in the jet stream. This difficult language just means that currents and winds have been moving further south because of a struggle between high and low temperatures, and of dense and thin air. Rising instability (and also strength) of the jet stream can cause dramatically cold winters despite the overall warming of the planet.
The latter we can see in Australia. Where tires are freezing off of wheels in the Midwest, tires are melting in Australia because of the extreme heat. Dehydration, forest fires, sun strokes… a normal day down under, except this time animals have been dying en mass to create a picture of floating fish lakes and horses scattered in fields. This heat wave has average temperatures as high as 40oC (a 70oC difference been Chicago at the same time).
Ella Goemans, MD’s editing supervisor & this week’s commentator
For an update on Brexit, please don’t ask me. For fundamental reasons I try to abstain from covering this topic. Besides, this week has been more of the same uncertainty, as it has been since the referendum in 2016.