Many parts of the United States have been facing colder than normal temperatures, snow and ice storms and other severe winter weather for quite some time now. Some of these weather events have been attributed to the Polar Vortex of 2014. To make matters worse, many sections of the country are currently in, or preparing to deal with a second polar vortex! Let's look at what this means and some of the best ways to cope with these harsh conditions.
What is a Polar Vortex?
Apart from sounding very cold, what exactly is a polar vortex? It is not, as some people suppose, a rare or unusual event. It is actually a long term, semi-permanent area of low pressure in the planet's upper atmosphere. It generally has two primary centers, one in Siberia and the other in Canada.
What is unusual this year is that the polar vortex has moved more southward than usual this winter due to a diversion of the polar jet stream. This has caused colder than average temperatures in many sections of the United States, including the Midwest, Northeast and even parts of the South, including usually balmy Florida.
Strangely enough, this southward diversion of the polar vortex has actually created warmer than normal temperatures in certain unexpected places, such as Alaska. In Seward, Alaska, for example, a record high temperature of 61 F was recorded in January. Such changes in the behavior of the polar vortex are usually short lived. What has happened in the winter of 2014, however, is that this type of phenomenon is poised to strike more than once.
A Second Polar Vortex
Another polar vortex event is about to bring yet another round of cold temperatures to many regions. This includes New England, the Midwest, Minnesota, the Dakotas and other areas. While it will be slightly more cold than usual, however, this polar vortex is not expected to produce record cold temperatures, but only about 10 degrees lower than unusual.
Strategies to Stay Warm During a Polar Vortex
There is nothing that can be done about weather events such as a polar vortex except to endure them. There are, however, effective coping strategies that can make even the most frigid days a little more bearable. Some of the tactics that people use to cope with the cold include:
Dressing in Layers – Wearing additional layers, starting with thermal underwear, can help people stay warm.
Protecting the Whole Body – This includes the ears, hands and, if it's really cold, even the face.
Staying Active – Moving around helps keep the body temperature up. People who go to the gym or even go for brisk walks maintain a higher metabolism and are less likely to feel cold.
Eating and Drinking For the Cold – Certain foods and beverages can help warm people up. These include soups, spicy foods such as chili and hot beverages such as coffee, hot cocoa and tea. An alcoholic beverage can also warm up the body when it's very cold out.