Science with Steve: The Polar Vortex Rock Show


It has rained a lot recently, seems like it’s just day after day. In fact, nearly 75% of February so far has featured some sort of precipitation. 

In Norfolk, we’ve already surpassed our average monthly rainfall totals, making this the fourth month in a row we’ve done so (November, December, January and February were all soakers).

Monthly rains for the past three months.

These several rounds of rain locally are due in part to the blast of cold air affecting thousands to our west. There was one point over the weekend where the entire state of Texas was under a Winter Storm Warning..

Monday midday forecast.

The jet stream has become a bit wonky, and we’ve tapped into it. The jet stream is the expressway of weather, all the general weather patterns and storm systems follow along its path from west to east. It’s also why your flight from San Francisco to Newark is significantly shorter than when you fly west, since you’re going with the flow.

In a traditional sense, it has a specific tension that holds all of the cold, polar air in place to our north. But as our planet continues to warm, that tension starts to loosen. The jet stream then becomes ‘out of tune’, so to speak, allowing the cold polar air to move and pour into areas it usually isn’t.

The storm track has dipped deep into the south, allowing cold air from the north to pour in.

This disrupts the general flow of weather from west to east, altering the storm track. And lately, that storm track has been dipping down into the Gulf of Mexico and racing right up the I-95 corridor, straight through Hampton Roads.

With a warming globe, quirky weather patterns like this become a bit more common. And as a result, rain becomes rainier, hot becomes hotter, cold becomes colder, storms become stormier (don’t forget, 2020 was the most active hurricane season on record). 

So on a daily basis, the weather mood swings we typically see around Hampton Roads just become a bit moodier. Round after round of rain, 70 degree sunshine followed by a day in the 30s, or four days in a row of snow.

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