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Polar Extremes

Polar Extremes

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Friday, February 1, 2019/Categories: natural history, video, space science, sustainability, art and design, environment, climate change

       Australian Extreme Temperature Anomalies, 1-14-28, 2019 (credit: Terra Earth Monitoring satellite)

Extremes polar temperatures are occurring in both hemispheres at once. While North America is experiencing some of the coldest days ever recorded, Australia is suffering through the highest temperatures recording for that southern land.

NASA's Earth monitoring environmental Terra satellite has measured the extreme heat affecting most of Australia including the far southern state of Tasmania. Surface temperature anomalies were gathered in mid-January, mapped, and then compared to similar two-week periods from 2000-2012. Red colors depict areas hotter than average while blues represent colder. White areas show normal temperatures with gray zones missing data, likely due to cloud cover.

According to NASA and Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), the summer of 2018-19 has brought seven of the ten hottest days on record. The most extreme heatwave occurred over consecutive days, when the averaged temperatures exceeded 104°F (40°C). January 15th ranked as the second-hottest day ever in Australia, falling less than a degree short of the all-time record in January 2013. Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, recorded its hottest temperature for any state capital in 80 years, reaching 116°F (46.4°C), January 25th. Forest fires have erupted in Tasmania, Australia's generally cool southern island of famous temperature rainforests.


                                    Polar Vortex Data Visualization, 1-20-29, 2019 (credit: JPL)

In the northern hemisphere, dangerously cold temperatures have been affecting the Mid-western US and Canada during the same time period. Researchers at JPL in Pasadena captured continuous imagery of the polar vortex forcing upper atmospheric temperatures to plunge deeply south. Using data from an infrared sensor on NASA's Aqua satellite, the Arctic vortex moved from central Canada into the Midwest between January 20-29th. The lowest temperatures are purple and blue and range from -10F to -40F. The data visualization, shows the coldest areas as the air mass plunges into the US.

At both poles, changes in the polar jet stream, most likely induced by oceanic and atmospheric temperature increases due to climate change, have affected typical weather patterns. Climate science research is underway at many institutions, such as Woods Hole in Massachusets, to determine to what extent the warming atmosphere is causing extreme weather events to intensify. Research is a long-term process and people in both Australia and here are suffering from immediate and dangerous weather situations.



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