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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Polar Vortex Grabs Media Attention!

Several years ago, in attempt to understand ozone depletion, I learned of the role that the (southern) polar vortex plays in the forming the "hole in the ozone" over Antarctica every September-November (spring in the southern hemisphere). The southern vortex contributes to the formation of the hole by isolating the air over Antarctica every winter-spring, and then breaks up every December (summer in the southern hemisphere), so the hole goes away. Although the vortex forms during the winter, the hole doesn't form until the spring because sunlight is needed separate Cl atoms from the CFC molecules - and there is no sunlight over the South Pole during the winter. To learn more about the role the southern vortex plays in ozone depletion, CLICK HERE (NASA site).

The NASA graphic above shows the correlation between ozone depletion, the location of the vortex, and temperature over the Arctic. The globe on the left shows that there is ozone depletion over the Arctic (every spring), but it is not bad enough to be called a "hole". To learn more about why ozone loss is worse over the South Pole, why the hole only forms in the spring (Sept-Oct), and the conditions that team up to cause the hole, CLICK HERE.

Although, the southern vortex is bigger, stronger, and lasts longer than its northern counterpart, it was the northern polar vortex grabbing all the headlines last week. There's NEVER been as much news coverage about the vortex as there was during the recent cold spell - In fact, very few Americans had ever heard of the polar vortex until this outbreak of cold weather. Here are some sources that may be helpful:

1. The Washington Post has a informative page about how the (northern) polar vortex caused those bitter cold temperatures. The page includes links and graphics.

2. Take a look at this NOAA site.

3. Here is a site that has great graphics from Climate Central.

To view a convenient list of all the resources that have been posted on this "Earth Science Guy" blog site, CLICK HERE.

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