By JULIE LAFRANZO
The first week of the semester Drake went through something called a Polar Vortex. A Polar Vortex is actually not seasonal but is happening throughout the entire year, just not where people live. At both the north and south poles, there is a polar vortex of all the cold air in that region, known as the polar regions. The Polar Vortex is a jet stream of wind that holds that air close to their polar regions based on the difference in temperature between the temperate regions (where we are) and the polar regions (where it is very cold).
“The larger the temperature difference between the Arctic and temperate regions (like Iowa), the stronger the winds become and the more isolated the pole is,” said professor David Courard-Hauri.
The temperature difference between the polar regions and the temperate regions keeps that cold air inside the polar vortex and away from the temperate regions.
What makes it cold here and why scientists call it a polar vortex is when the temperatures are not different but have a great distance from one another, since the arctic is cold.
“That wind barrier bends and moves down into the temperate and tropical regions,” Courard-Hauri said. This happens because, “[the] difference in temperature between the temperate and polar regions are not as great. [This] makes the jet stream weaker and more likely to bend.”
Even though this happens, as we saw, it didn’t last very long. Only two days. In theory, it could last close to a week or two.
Part of what gets the temperature back up is that “[there is] nothing to anchor the [cold air] here and hold it in place [so] it mixes with warm air,” Courard-Hauri said.
This allows the temperature to start warming back up again so we don’t stay as cold as the arctic. If there was something to keep that cold air here, the polar vortexes would be colder and last longer.
When the temperature drops, the majority of us stay inside, but most animals can not do that. “[It is] hard for livestock owners in Iowa [because] they are trying to get their animals out of the wind and try to bring them into indoor facilities to keep out of the wind,” said professor Keith Summerville.
“Animals can lower their metabolism to combat the stress of the cold. If [animals] have enough fat and calories to combat the stress, they can make it through the short-term challenges.”
In general, like us, they can stay alive during the harsh cold of the polar vortex. Though, as said before, most animals can’t go inside. That means that if the extreme cold lasts for too long, some animals might not be able to live through it.
“After about a week, small animals would experience increasing amounts of stress,”Summerville said. Which would lead to the death of many of them. Larger animals would be able to last longer as “they have a smaller surface area in reference to their volume [as opposed] to smaller animals that have a larger surface area compared to their volume.”
Graphics by Hannah Cohen