What Is the Polar Vortex? And Other Cold-Weather Climate Questions
The polar jet stream, which encircles the polar vortex, can get wavier and shift southward.
Source: Climate Reanalyzer, Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine, using forecasts from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction Global Forecast System.
By Elena Shao/The New York Times.
Fountain lives in Albuquerque, where during the big freeze of February 2021 the temperature went from 55 to 7 degrees in 18 hours.
The polar vortex is descending on the midsection of the United States, bringing bitterly cold Arctic air and causing temperatures to plunge rapidly in many areas. The deep freeze will be accompanied by a major snowstorm that is expected to cause travel chaos.
The vortex is a large rotating expanse of cold air that generally circles the Arctic, but occasionally shifts south from the pole. Vortex-related cold snaps occur regularly in the United States. One of the most damaging occurred in February 2021, when the frigid air reached deep into Texas, resulting in temperatures that were as much as 40 degrees Fahrenheit below normal.
That freeze led to at least 250 deaths and caused extensive damage to the state’s power infrastructure.
As global emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide continue, the Arctic is warming nearly four times faster than other parts of the planet, according to the latest analysis, and the region’s sea-ice coverage is shrinking. So when the vortex meanders southward, two basic questions arise. What role, if any, does climate change play? And will extreme freezes increase as warming continues?.
The short answer: Scientists aren’t sure, yet. There are clues, but still more to learn.
“I wish I had a clear answer,” said Steve Vavrus, a climate scientist at the University of Wisconsin. With Jennifer Francis, now at the Woodwell Climate Research Center in Massachusetts, Dr. Vavrus wrote a seminal 2012 paper that presented the idea that Arctic warming was affecting the polar vortex. “Unfortunately the state of things is still ambiguous,” he said.
The vortex is a mass of high-altitude, rotating air that, as the term suggests, occurs over the North Pole region. (There are actually two vortexes, one in the Arctic, the other in the Antarctic, but only the northern one affects weather in the Northern Hemisphere.)
The vortex strengthens and becomes much colder in winter, because with the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the Sun at that time of year, little or no sunlight reaches the Arctic to warm it up.
If you were looking down at the North Pole, the air would look like it was rotating counterclockwise. Some scientists have compared it to a spinning top. The vortex is encircled by the polar jet stream, a band of winds that blows from west to east around the planet.
In normal conditions, the vortex is stable and confined to the Arctic. But just as a spinning top can start to wobble and drift if it bumps into something, the vortex can be disrupted. It is accompanied by changes to the jet stream, which develops a wavy, snakelike pattern as it circles the globe.
Sometimes the vortex splits into several fragments that move southward. Sometimes, as appears to be the case this week, it becomes stretched, like a rubber band. Either way, the disruption can have several major effects.
Temperatures in the atmosphere over the Arctic can rise, sometimes dramatically. At the same time, the frigid Arctic air moves southward.
If the movement is rapid enough, temperatures in the areas exposed to the mass of cold air can fall by tens of degrees within hours, and can stay extremely low for days or even weeks until the vortex becomes stable again in the North Pole region.
For climate scientists, this is the crux of the debate.
Some scientists say Arctic warming is causing disruptions in the vortex, through the changes in the polar jet stream. Others say that modeling suggests naturally variable factors are driving disruptions instead and that an increase in vortex disruptions that occurred previously — including a noticeable uptick in the 2000s — has not continued.
Judah Cohen, a climate scientist at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, a weather-risk assessment firm in Lexington, Mass., is an author of that linked the 2021 Texas freeze to Arctic warming. He sees the same thing happening now.
The basic idea, he said, is that the warmer conditions create larger and more energetic atmospheric waves that make the jet stream wavier, with greater peaks and troughs. That affects the polar vortex circulation.
To use the spinning top analogy, “it’s like if it started banging into things,” he said. “It loses its nice circular shape and in this case becomes more stretched out.” One lobe stretches down into Canada and the United States, bringing an outbreak of cold weather.
Dr. Cohen said he’s been studying the subject since 2005, and is more confident than ever about the link to changes in the Arctic. “The evidence is only growing,” he said.
Other scientists are not as certain. the journal Nature Climate Change in 2020, two researchers at the University of Exeter in England wrote that, although Arctic warming and sea-ice loss were continuing, the short-term trends in cold extremes, jet-stream waviness and other climate-related measurements in the 1990s and 2000s “have not continued over the past decade,” weakening the argument that rising temperatures in the Arctic were the culprit.
Some experts suggest that rather than warming, other naturally variable elements of the earth’s climate may be affecting the vortex. Among these, said Ted Shepherd, a climate scientist at the University of Reading in England, are sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which can drive changes to air masses in the Arctic that disrupt the jet stream and vortex.
Scientists say that questions over what role Arctic warming may play in extreme cold snaps is an example of the kind of healthy climate-change debates that occur now. It’s not about whether climate change is real — that question has been answered — but what kinds of effects it has, how severe they are and whether they will worsen as warming continues.
Most scientists view this debate as an important one that is still underway. Dr. Vavrus said that some aspects “are on pretty solid physical footing.” Among these, he said, is the idea that Arctic warming, by reducing the temperature difference between the Arctic and the tropics, has weakened the jet stream winds. But other aspects, including whether and where warming is making the jet stream wavier, “are the things that we’ve really been wrestling with and remain uncertain,” he said.
Software investors must (re)learn these 3 ideas before getting into deep tech
Last year, The Information proclaimed the software investing playbook has gone from an exclusive recipe amongst VCs to common knowledge amongst all investors. That, in addition to cheap money, has turned software investing into a low-margin finance game.
Yet, traditional VCs are still stuck with their now low-margin businesses, unable to move forward and invest in the next big thing: deep tech.
But perhaps that’s for the best. After all, unless software investors can unlearn their own playbook, they’ll continue struggling with the innovator dilemma while they slowly go extinct alongside the companies they’re so eager to fund.
In other words, the software playbook is dead, not just doomed to fail. Here are three things software investors must relearn before investing in deep tech.
The market is king. Your founder has no power here
Software investors’ founder-first mantra is simply wrong in the world of deep tech. This type of magical thinking is exactly why their software playbook is doomed to fail.
Deep tech takes decades to bear fruit, not years, and it is virtually impossible for deep tech companies to do a hard pivot. Expecting founders to overcome physical and technological constraints is downright bad investing, especially in an era where cheap money tends to evaporate.
If you’re a software investor looking to invest in deep tech, you need to understand that the market is king here. A charismatic founder cannot be relied upon to “figure it out” along the way and a company’s team is only as good as its ability to exist inside its market.
With pivots out the window, a deep tech company needs to get the market right from day one. A half-baked, superficial hypothesis about product-market fit and go-to-market strategy is child’s play in the world of deep tech.
At 100 years old, I’m the ‘world’s oldest practicing doctor’—5 things I never do to live a long, happy life
When I was born in 1922, the average life expectancy in the U.S. was 58 years old for men, and 61 years old for women.
So as a 100-year-old practicing medical doctor and neurologist, patients often ask me for tips on how to stay healthy, happy and mentally sharp.
Good genes and a bit of luck can give you a head start, but here are some lifestyle rules I have lived by over the past century:
1. I don’t spend my days retired.
I’ve been working for more than 75 years, and was even named as the world’s oldest practicing doctor by the Guinness World Records. Sara, my wife of 65 years, also still practices psychoanalysis and psychiatry at age 89.
During the pandemic, I treated patients for five or six days a week. Then I switched to teaching medical residents for up to three days a week. (My hospital just shut down, so I’m currently doing medical legal review work while I look for another role.)
When I’m not working, I like spending time with my four children and 10 grandchildren, snowshoeing, and watching Cleveland sports.
If you’re blessed to have a career you enjoy and are still able to work, consider delaying retirement. Many people who retire and become inactive in their day-to-day routine are at an increased risk of cognitive decline.
2. I don’t let myself get out of shape.
Swimming, jogging, hiking and skiing well into my late-80s has kept me strong and healthy.
While I no longer ski and am not quite as active as I once was, I try to get in at least three miles on my treadmill at a brisk pace most days of the week. Watching Turner Classic Movies in the background helps curb some of the boredom.
Studies have found that something as simple as a 15-minute walk outside could lower your risk of premature death by almost 25%.
3. I don’t smoke.
When I was in high school in the 1930s, I told my father that I wanted to take up smoking. He said, “That’s alright with me. But why would anyone want to put anything but fresh air into his lungs when life is so short as it is?”
That immediately took the fun and excitement out of tobacco for me.
I remember attending medical meetings where doctors would, with a cigarette dangling from their mouths, tell patients to take up smoking because it would “curb your appetite and quiet your nerves.”
Today, we know that cigarette smoking leads to cancer, stroke, peripheral artery disease, coronary artery disease, and other pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases.
4. I don’t restrict myself.
Moderation allows us to live life to the fullest while also keeping us from going overboard and impacting our health in the long run.
I’ll have a martini and New York strip steak occasionally, but not every day. Sara is an excellent chef, and she’s helped me maintain a healthy and varied diet. We have salad with every meal, and enjoy greens like bok choy, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
The real secret to longevity is that there are no secrets. But we live daily and die once, so we must make the most of the time we have.
5. I don’t let my knowledge go to waste.
Having practiced neurology for over seven decades, I’ve witnessed medicine evolve from lobotomies to the latest computerized imaging techniques.
I thoroughly enjoy teaching my medical residents and students, and I learn a great deal from them as well.
I have also been participating in upcoming documentary about my life. It’s been a joy to share stories from my long career with the next generation.
Dr. Howard Tucker is a neurologist from Cleveland, Ohio and was named the ”Oldest Practicing Doctor″ by Guinness World Records. He received his law degree and passed the Ohio Bar Exam in his late 60s, and served as chief of neurology of the Atlantic fleet during the Korean War. A feature documentary about Dr. Tucker is in the works. Follow him on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook.
Jury deliberates fate of businessman accused of Miami murder-for-hire plot involving MMA fighters, gang member
MIAMI – After having to stare at gruesome photos for hours, the jury started to deliberate Wednesday afternoon on the fate of Manuel Marin, a Cuban-American businessman accused of a murder-for-hire plot targeting Camilo Salazar, a romantic rival.
Assistant State Attorney Jonathan Borst showed photos of Salazar’s bruised and partially burned body while Dr. Emma Lew, the Miami-Dade medical examiner who performed the victim’s autopsy over a decade ago, testified in court. She also stood up and held up a photo for the jury to see.
“He had two cuts across the front of his neck,” Lew said adding that Salazar, a 43-year-old father from Coconut Grove, had suffered bone fractures and burns in his genital area, and he was still alive when someone slit his throat without hesitation.
A poster-size photo on an easel facing the jury showed Salazar, as detectives found him with his hands bound on June 1, 2011, in a desolated area along Okeechobee Road, while Assistant State Attorney Justin Funck delivered his closing statement.
“Manuel Marin is the match that lit the fire. Manuel Marin started striking that match on March 15. He set that fire and let it burn. He let Camilo Salazar burn,” Funck said referring to Marin’s first call to Isaac in March 2011. “His ego, his pride, his machismo — that was the gasoline.”
Detectives identified the trio who abducted and tortured Salazar before killing him as Roberto Isaac, a Latin Kings gang member; and MMA fighters Alexis Vila Perdomo and Ariel Gandulla.
Salazar, a married interior designer, vanished on June 1, 2011, after dropping off his baby girl at his wife’s office in Coconut Grove. Detectives said his family and friends later found his car in the office’s parking lot, as they frantically searched for him.
Funck cited cell phone and SunPass records as “direct evidence” of Marin’s involvement in Salazar’s murder. He also listed Marin’s bank and property transfers before the murder as evidence that there was a premeditated plan.
Attorney Jose M. Quiñon, who defended Marin, argued there was insufficient evidence to find Marin, a former Presidente Supermarkets partner, guilty of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder.
You are not guilty simply because you may be in some place or you may associate with someone who commits a crime,” Quiñon said.
Vila Perdomo, who was Marin’s friend because they were both Cuban and shared an interest in MMA, “is the one who decides that he is going to help his friend,” Quiñon said during his closing statement later adding, “The plan was to scare Salazar.”
Quiñon said Isaac, who is the “violent” gang member, was the one who decided to kill Salazar — without Marin’s knowledge. He also said Isaac was the one who smelled like gasoline and not Marin, who he described as a hardworking father and doting husband who had hired maids and cooks to help and even bought the house next door to give his wife a second pool.
The prosecution, Quiñon said, just didn’t have enough evidence or a reliable witness to affirm with certainty that Marin had killed Salazar.
“This killing is something that took place in a place where nobody knows who really killed Mr. Salazar,” Quiñon told the jury.
Funck disagreed and argued that Marin was the one who “decided” Salazar had to die and since the plan was to kidnap him and kill him they held Salazar at Isaac’s house until Marin arrived from his family trip to Bimini, an island in the Bahamas.
Funck said Gandulla had testified that he saw Marin and the blue Mercedes-Benz.
“Marin is waiting with the hatch-up, back of the Mercedes lined in plastic,” Funck
Before the closing statements and jury instructions, Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Miguel M. de la O asked Marin if he wanted to testify even though Quiñon, a former Assistant State Attorney in Miami-Dade County, had advised him not to.
With the help of a court translator, Marin told De la O that he had decided not to testify. Prosecutors also mentioned during the trial that Marin vanished a few days after the murder and surrendered to authorities in 2018 at a U.S. embassy in Spain to face charges in Miami-Dade.
In 2019, a jury found Isaac guilty of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder, and Vila Perdomo guilty of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder. A judge sentenced Isaac to life in prison and Vila Perdomo to 15 years in prison.
As part of a plea agreement, a judge sentenced Gandulla to 36 months in prison, which he served. The Florida Department of Corrections released him on April 11, 2022. He testified in the cases of Isaac, Vila Perdomo, and most recently Marin.
Quiñon questioned Gandulla’s honesty and motives and he asked jurors to disregard his testimony. Funck asked the jury to consider Gandulla could have chosen to remain in Canada with his family, but instead he pleaded guilty to kidnapping out of remorse.
Before deliberations started, De la O decided to dismiss a juror saying he had spent most of the trial sleeping and an alternate juror took his place. If the jury unanimously agrees to convict Marin, he could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
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