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Editorial: Extreme cold part of forecast

If the forecasts hold true, then the region is going to experience a January thaw.


Having the temperatures head into the 40s will feel almost tropical in comparison to what has been the experience recently.

Even longtime New England residents, who have weathered plenty of cold and snow over the years, admit that this was different. If nothing else, we’ve all become familiar with “polar vortex,” a term used for those strong upper-level winds going in a counterclockwise direction that hover over the north pole. It became distorted, allowing a jet stream change to bring an outbreak of cold Arctic air south. That meant not just colder-than-usual temperatures but a deep freeze in parts of the country that usually escape such cold during the winter.

That meant plenty of broken records when it came to the cold, whether that meant single digits in parts of the south or numbers that dropped below zero. Another way to put it perspective was that all 50 states dipped below 32 degrees Tuesday — including Hawaii, where at the top of the Mauna Kea volcano the temps fell to 25.

The phenomenon of a polar vortex is an understood occurrence, but that hasn’t stopped a few people from trying to use it as a way to refute climate change and global warming. After all, they argue, how can there be global warming exist in the face of such frigid temperatures?

But the thing is that no one ever said the seasons of summer or winter would cease to exist. Rather, the projection was, they would change. And that included experiencing more extremes and shifts in weather patterns.

Scientists say that one cause for changes in the jet stream would be the Arctic’s rising temperatures. And we’re witnessing parts of Europe going through the most severe winter storm season in decades, with storms that are hammering coastlines and countries and causing plenty of flooding. Other parts of the world are experiencing warmer than usual temperatures. In Australia, where it’s summer, the nation is experiencing is what the country’s Bureau of Meteorology is calling a “highly significant” event. And this followed a declaration that 2013 was the hottest year on record for Australia.

Will there be more polar vortex events in our future? Most likely. But the real question is just how frequently — and that’s something we’re going to find out in coming years.

Meanwhile, bring on the thaw!

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