Polar Vortex and Climate Change

Many Texans are now terrified of snow and have every right to be after the weeks-long power outages that left residents without electricity or heat. Homes dropped into forty-degree temperatures when their power went out and had to resort to their fireplaces to provide warmth, but not all homes have fireplaces. Water pipes burst after multiple single-digit weather days even though people left their faucets dripping throughout the day. Texans were warned to conserve energy to help combat the vast number of blackouts, but even that was not enough for this polar vortex weather.

A polar vortex is noted as air swirling around the poles and has low pressure with a strong jet stream. In a stable polar vortex, the cold air stays at the poles and is the reason it is cold in the North and South pole. On the contrary, a weak polar vortex pushes the cold air south and warm air moves up, causing a wavy pattern. 

With all that being said, how can what happened the week of Valentine’s Day in Texas affect the world?

The winter storm that brought four to five inches of snow in Dallas, is a sign that climate change is continuing to happen right now. According to a UC Davis study, weakened polar vortexes are caused by the ice caps at the poles melting. The white glaciers have now fallen into the deep blue oceans, making the oceans more absorbent to the sun’s rays because of their dark color. The warm air now travels up north and disrupts the jet streams of a stable polar vortex. Greenhouse gases are also the reason for the ice caps melting because carbon dioxide and methane are being released into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide and methane are warm gases that are constantly being emitted by factories and make the earth warmer. In an NOAA 2019 Global Climate Summary, it stated that 2019 was the second warmest year on record.

The climate has been changing because of the amount of burning fossil fuels used each year. Exacting natural gas, oil, and coal are all nonrenewable resources that we use that are just easy and convenient to use. Per an NBC News article, 56 percent of Texas alone relies on natural gas for power. We have a lot of land for oil and natural gas to be extracted which is an easy and profitable resource to use. However, the repeated use of extracting natural resources can pollute the air quality and harm the earth’s atmosphere. This contributes to affecting the weather patterns because the warm carbon dioxide is being released into the air constantly.

Texas is the only state that has one power grid and does not share power with nearby states like others. With the continuation of weakening poles, Texas can now expect weather to be unprecedented and be abruptly different from the past years. Texas is going to need to solve the problem with ERCOT’s power grid because the weather is going to keep changing.