I love the "Wizard of Oz." There was a time when I could play every part in the movie classic, dramatize every line. But, alas, my memory isn’t what it used to be.
I had the pleasure of watching the movie with two of my grandchildren over the holidays. They had never seen it. I don’t know which I enjoyed more, the film or the expressions on their faces; the total delight, the dread of the wicked witch’s evil.
Drew and I took a road trip to the Boston area during the week between Christmas and New Year’s to visit our other two grandchildren. What is usually an enjoyable drive turned into an arduous, scary, snow-filled nightmare. As the blizzard-like conditions swirled about us, I couldn’t help but think I would be seeing the wicked witch on her broomstick flying by in our storm like she had in Dorothy’s.
We stayed overnight in Erie, Pennsylvania, where the weatherperson on local TV called the dire conditions a Polar Vortex. While the term was familiar, I felt the need to look it up. Dictionary.com defines it as: “A whirling mass of very cold air that sits over the North or South Pole.” It goes on to state: A displaced polar vortex is causing arctic temperatures across the United States.
I went on to learn that there are two polar vortices in the Earth's atmosphere, which overlie the North and South poles. Each polar vortex is a persistent, large-scale, low-pressure zone that rotates counter-clockwise at the North Pole (called a cyclone) and clockwise at the South Pole. The bases of the two polar vortices are located in the middle and upper troposphere and extend into the stratosphere. Beneath that lies a large mass of cold, dense arctic air. The vortices weaken and strengthen from year to year.
When the vortex of the arctic is strong, it is well-defined, there is a single vortex and the arctic air is well contained; when weaker, which it generally is, it will break into two or more vortices; when very weak, the flow of arctic air becomes more disorganized and masses of cold arctic air can push equatorward, bringing with it a rapid and sharp temperature drop — that would be our frigid cold snap, snow and windy conditions.
All of that is well and good. Scientific vocabulary and definitions, while interesting to some, assuages not an iota the bone-chilling, snowy winter predicted. What a way to usher in a new year!
I have to admit that I am not sorry to see 2017 end. It seems as if our world was caught in a polar vortex of a different type, complete with swirling, frigid political discord, natural disasters and international tensions. But, I do hold out hope.
Just like Dorothy returned to Kansas and her “witch-free” world, I’m hoping that “Polar Vortex” will return to just a scientific phenomenon for me and not be a definer of our world at large in 2018.