The polar vortex that is bringing bone numbing cold to much of the US is a weather phenomenon that is usually found at the poles and regions such as northern Canada that are close to the poles.
A polar vortex is a large scale cyclone that sits between the troposphere and the stratosphere, circulating the cold air around the polar regions. Very rarely do they ‘slip’ and move either north in the case of a South Pole vortex or south in the case of a North Pole vortex, and this is what has happened over the last few days.
The vortex has been very strong, with the cold air locked in to Arctic Canada for a long time. Stuck in one place, the air has got colder and colder. Cold air is dense so once it is released it travels a long way, and that is why it is penetrating so far southwards. (source)
Such a weather system quite literally brings the polar weather to whatever region the vortex encompasses, in this case much of the continental United States.
The warnings to stay indoors should be taken seriously. In temperatures that are set to drop to -50° including the wind chill, frostbite will become an issue within minutes.
Frostbite literally freezes the fluid within the individual cells, and as we all know when liquid freezes it expands. This bursts the cell membrane, and it dies, giving rise to the blackened skin seen in frostbite victims.Photo: AP
If you do have to venture out, all exposed skin should be covered. Wear goggles to protest your eyes and limit the time you are outside.
Blood turns sticky when exposed to cold temperatures and heart attacks and strokes are far more likely in cold weather, even more so if that is combined with over-exertion such as clearing snow from paths and driveways.
As the following video shows, temperatures of just -14°F (-25.6°C) are enough to freeze boiling water instantly.
If you are unfortunate enough to lose power use alternative heat sources with care.
BBQ’s are not suitable for indoor use as like the burning of all fossil fuels, they release carbon monoxide. Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, tasteless and colorless gas that prevents oxygen moving effectively around the body. It results in many deaths each winter, usually from the inappropriate use of heating appliances such as gas space heaters and BBQ’s. The fumes from generators also account for avoidable deaths every winter.
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Contributed by Chris Carrington of The Daily Sheeple.
Chris Carrington is a writer, researcher and lecturer with a background in science, technology and environmental studies. Chris is an editor for The Daily Sheeple. Wake the flock up!