Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

January 9, 2014

GARY'S WORLD: Deep freeze mystifies everyone

CROSSVILLE — We really had a cold spell here with snow and plunging temperatures that went down around eight or 10 degrees below zero. It’s the coldest I can remember it getting here in a long time.

It wasn’t just here, though. The temps from the northern states and a large section of the middle of the country and all the way down to Florida plunged. It’s been rough.

Of course the first thing everyone wanted to know is why is it getting so cold down in the south? How could it be 10 below zero in Tennessee and 33 degrees in Alaska?

Weather forecasters started throwing around this term describing the phenomenon as a “polar vortex.”

I’m pretty experienced with cold and blizzard-like conditions. I grew up around Chicago and I can remember many of my childhood winters where temperatures plunged to 20 below zero with a windchill of 60 below — and we went sledding. No way I could do that now.

The first time I saw or heard of this expression was last Sunday afternoon when a friend on Facebook posted, “The polar vortex is coming.”

Now, I’m not an old man or anything, but I have been around for a while and I watch a significant amount of news and weather on the TV and read it on the Internet. For several years I have watched and read forecasts and I’ve never heard of this polar vortex.

But now, over the past four days, I have heard and read the expression “polar vortex” no less than 5,796 times. Maybe even more.

Every single broadcaster who has access to a microphone and TV camera is jumping in on the catch phrase and saying, “Well, this polar vortex is the cause the extreme cold ...”

In reality, the phenomenon is that everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon and using this popular, cool, weather term.

I even heard a couple talking about it in the check out line at the local grocer.

“I heard it was caused by a polar vortex,” the man said.

“Is that so?” She responded. “What is that?”

“I guess it’s a lot of cold air,” he said.

Before this week, how many of you have ever even heard of the polar vortex?

It sounds more like the name of a new sports drink flavor.

This language phenomenon isn’t anything new. I still have nightmares about the time when the phrase “El Nino” become popular. Everyone was casually throwing that expression around like a pair of cheap flip-flops from the dollar store.

Doppler radar, EF scale tornado, Tsunami all have had their time in the overused “popular” expression category over the past several years.

I’ve asked several people online and in casual conversation, “Just exactly what is a polar vortex?”

The responses have been week at best, until I saw an article in the Chronicle where Crossville meteorologist Steve Norris gave an explanation.

I guess language fads aren’t as bad as behavior fads.

One recent behavior fad going along with the deep freeze that’s sweeping across the country is the act of throwing a pan of boiling water into the air and watching it turn into vapor and snow.

“It’s like magic,” one TV personality said.

Irresponsible weather forecasters have performed this act on TV and the videos have gone viral, making every kid in America want to try the trick on their own, create a video and post it online.

I blame this phenomenon on social media sites. People see a video that’s gone viral on the Internet and want to see if it “really” works.

The boiling water trick has scalded hundreds of people with second degree burns.

Another trick is blowing bubbles outside in the freezing air to see if the air will make them freeze. Frozen bubbles aren’t quite as dangerous, but I think you get my point.

I also found what a polar vortex is after reading a story explaining it on NPR.

But, nobody can explain what caused the circular air flow around the north pole to go wobbly, elongate and drift way down into the US, though.

Of course there are many theories out there, but nobody has been able to explain the phenomenon of everybody wanting to use the phrase polar vortex.

• • •

Gary Nelson is a Crossville Chronicle staffwriter. His column is published each Friday. He may be reached at gnelson@crossville-chronicle.com.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • LION AND THE LAMB: Four ways to demonstrate opposition

    Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan mention in their book, “The Last Week,” that Roman-occupied Palestine during the first century was under the control of Pontius Pilate who lived in the coastal city of Caesarea. Each year at the beginning of the Passover observance when Jews celebrated their liberation from Egypt, Pilate feared that they might be getting ideas about revolting from Rome, so he would come with additional soldiers on horses to beef up the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. 

    April 15, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: Is it (new) party time?

    The Democratic and Republican parties are toast, according to Joe Trippi. The Republican Party is coming apart at its Tea Party seam. Democratic candidates struggle to celebrate President Obama’s health care successes, while responding to criticism of his failed promises, e.g., government transparency.

    April 15, 2014

  • TIDBITS: I found it at the library

    I have such fond memories of going to my local library as a child, searching through shelf after shelf and finding a book that would make me a Little Princess in World War II England, or bring me along as Nancy Drew solved the Secret in the Old Attic.

    April 14, 2014

  • STUMPTALK: The reason words have meaning

    If words did not have accepted meanings we would not be able to communicate effectively and civilized society would not exist.

    April 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Do we really believe in democracy?

    The recent Supreme Court decision, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, is in a long line of debates about power in a democracy. Should power be in the hands of all the citizens or should it be in hands of those who have greater wealth and social position?

    April 8, 2014

  • We the People: Public education or business opportunity?

    A month ago, we followed the money trail left by a ‘think tank’ to the major sources funding an attack on our traditional, locally controlled public schools. We saw that a handful of billionaires provide major support to many organizations lobbying for change.

    April 8, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Just another government lie?

    There is a vault located in Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was built in 1936 and encased in 16 cubic feet of granite and 4200 feet of cement. The door is made of 20-inch thick material that is immune to drills, torches and explosives.

    April 7, 2014

  • GARY'S WORLD: The chance to speak your mind

    Are you tired of hearing people complain about the way things are run in Cumberland County? Or, do you like the way the county government is run and operated in our beautiful county?
    Are you happy with the way things are, or would you like some change?

    April 3, 2014

  • LION AND THE LAMB: Digging beneath the headlines

    Our media have been focusing on two important events that have taken place overseas during the last several weeks.

    April 1, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: SNAP, health and work

    A recent letter from Representative Diane Black to me states that she voted for the farm bill (with $8 million in Food Stamp (SNAP) benefit cuts) because she, like me, is a supporter of food stamp benefits for Tennessee families who qualify. That’s a lot of families, as most recipients are families with children and the elderly. Now, recall that there was already a major cut to the food stamp program back in the fall. But for some Republicans, that was not enough.

    April 1, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
Parade
AP Video
Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge US Supports Ukraine's Efforts to Calm Tensions Suspect in Kansas Shootings Faces Murder Charges Ukraine: Military Recaptures Eastern Airport Raw: Storm Topples RVs Near Miss. Gulf Coast NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse Pistorius Cries During Final Cross-Examination The Boston Marathon Bombing: One Year Later Michael Phelps Set to Come Out of Retirement First Women Move to Army Platoon Artillery Jobs Sex Offenders Charged in Serial Killings Police: Woman Stored Dead Babies in Garage OC Serial Murder Suspects May Have More Victims Family: 2 Shot in Head at Kan. Jewish Center Raw: Horse Jumping Inspires 'Bunny Hop' After Attack, Officials Kill 5 Bears in Florida Popular Science Honors Year's Top Inventions ND Oil Boom Attracting Drug Traffickers
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar