The polar vortex

With regards to weather, 2014 got off to a very strange start all throughout the United States: in Alaska as well as in the Lower 48, albeit for opposite reasons.

In many places in the contiguous 48 states, a “polar vortex” weather pattern was causing abnormally frigid temperatures in early January, while in Alaska, Nome and its environs experienced a period of unseasonable warmth: temperatures in the 20s and 30s.

As KNOM News reported, with the aid of an interview with a Rutgers University climate scientist, the abnormal temperatures were largely caused by a shift in the jet stream, the global pattern of high-altitude wind currents. With the jet stream temporarily banking southward, it allowed air that would have otherwise stayed in the Arctic – KNOM’s backyard – to migrate down to the Lower 48. The same phenomenon, ironically, also kept warm air (and warm temperatures) in Alaska.

Thanks to your ongoing support, our news department brought the details of this unique story to our listeners. The story was more than just a curiosity, since January’s unusual weather – in particular, the unusual movement of the jet stream underlying it – was likely caused by trends that, in recent years, have already been impacting the lives of our listeners. Climate stories are of special interest to those we serve, and thus, stories like this cut to the core of why our mission and its news department exist. Thank you for making possible this crucially-needed reporting.