At least 20 people have died and vast swaths of the US Midwest and Northeast have come to a standstill because of a frigid blast of sub-zero temperatures. Another Arctic vortex has struck.
A polar vortex is a large expanse of swirling, cold air that is usually located in the polar regions. However, during winter, and now more frequently due to human-caused climate disruption, the vortex expands and moves southward, bringing the Arctic temperatures with it.
Studies have shown that a warming Arctic is shifting the jet stream, and playing a critical role in the changes that are causing the polar vortex to become more common in the US.
In addition to deaths, the record low temperatures have resulted in many frostbite patients flocking to hospitals, the grounding of more than 1,600 flights in the Chicago area alone, and the US Postal Service ceasing mail delivery at times in certain areas.
There were times when temperatures in areas of the Midwest were lower than they were in Antarctica.
As human-caused climate disruption continues to worsen, extreme weather events such as this will continue to place, increasing demands on infrastructure.
For example, one utility company realized it was in danger of being unable to keep pace with the demand for natural gas, given the spike in need for heating in Michigan. After the company made an emergency appeal for everyone to conserve gas during the deep freeze, General Motors suspended operations at 11 of its plants in that state.
Homeless shelters in Lansing, Michigan, were overcrowded, and churches had to step in to assist, as did various city departments.
The Depths of Denial
On January 28, President Trump tweeted:
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
In response, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tweeted:
— NOAA Climate.gov (@NOAAClimate) January 29, 2019
NOAA’s tweet included a link to an article that suggested severe snowstorms may well become more likely as the planet continues to warm.