Is there more to the polar vortex than just a blast of cold air? As scientists probe the cause behind this phenomenon, they are also looking at the aftermath. The side effects of all that freezing range from flood damage to serious health complications. Understanding the polar vortex will show you the effect it has on your world.
About the Polar Vortex
AccuWeather describes the polar vortex as a large pocket of very cold air that sits over the polar region during the winter. A high pressure system from the Eastern Pacific pushed the vortex downward in 2013. The result was snow coverage and frigid temperatures in 75 percent of the northern U.S.
Effects of the Polar Vortex on Lakes
EcoWatch states the polar vortex has lasting effects on lakes, especially the Great Lake regions. As the ice on the lake melts, it creates condensation, like sweat. That moisture evaporates into the air, raising the humidity levels.
Researchers estimate that the water levels in the lakes will rise, as well. This is not a bad thing, because they have dropped over the last decade due to global warming. The levels may go up by as much as 20 inches in some areas.
The fish population may diminish if there are more winters ruled by the polar vortex. The cold water temperatures cause the fish to migrate later in the season, giving their spawn less time to grow, so they are vulnerable to the cold.
The Detroit News reports the polar vortex is responsible for the massive amounts of rain in some northern regions. Michigan experienced catastrophic flooding with power outages and damaged homes in August. The Metro Detroit area received three to six inches in just four hours.
USA Today offers startling statistics from the flood areas in Michigan.
- 18,047 structures in need of flood damage restoration in the city of Warren
- Property damage totaling 1.2 billion dollars
- Over 40 percent of the homes and businesses looking at water damage restoration in Dearborn, Michigan.
Flood damage restoration companies will have to work double time to get homes ready for the arctic air blast due soon. Last winter, Michigan saw 95 inches of snow thanks to the polar vortex and the coming months may be just as bad.
Enhanced Allergy Seasons
The country is already seeing a rise in ragweed pollen due to global warming; now the polar vortex is adding extra tree pollen to the mix. The melting snow floods the environment with water. The trees absorb that excess moisture and produce more pollen. WebMD explains that 55 percent of the population in the U.S. has allergies and tree pollen is a common one.
Homes that fail to get water damage restoration will increase the mold counts, as well. Exposure to mold spores can lead to:
- Skin irritation
- Red, itchy eyes
- Irritated throats
Long term exposure can cause neurological problems and deadly asthma attacks.
Other Health Concerns
The health problems are not limited to the aftermath of the vortex, however. There were 21 deaths reported in the winter of 2013 associated with record breaking temperatures, according to Fox News.
New York City, for example, saw four degrees in Central Park for the first time in 118 years. Southern regions were not equipped to handle the cold. That led to rolling blackouts that left people with little to no heat.
Frigid air is a big concern as scientists predict there will be additional polar vortex winters in the U.S. and Canada, but the damage is more widespread than you might imagine. If you are an allergy sufferer, ask your doctor what you can do to protect yourself as the pollen counts go up due to the polar vortex.