Residents of the Eastern United States have heard their local weathermen say “polar vortex” quite a bit lately, thanks to the extreme cold temperatures that part of the country has been experiencing. The term “polar vortex” is a term usually used to describe a very strong winter storm, but it’s much more than that. A polar vortex is the name for a large area of low pressure and cold air, and there are actually two of them. One polar vortex surrounds each of the Earth’s poles – hence the term “polar.” The term “vortex” comes from the swirling flow of air that helps keep the colder air over its respective pole.
Polar vortexes aren’t only found during the winter. They exist year-round near the poles, slightly weakening in the summer and then strengthening again in the winter. The Arctic vortex at the North pole is the one that is currently affecting the United States. It can expand as it strengthens, sending cold air southward and creating large outbreaks of arctic air in the United States.
When a polar vortex travels into farther southern regions it can have damaging impacts on the affected areas because they don’t have the proper infrastructure to respond to such extreme cold weather. Typically, it takes an unusually strong jet stream to pull the polar vortex so far south, and while this occurrence has historically been more of a rarity – usually happening one every five or six years – it has been and will be happening more frequently as the earth continues to get warmer, according to the scientists studying the effects of global warming.
The issue of global warming and changing climate is already causing concern among residents and visitors of coastal communities. It has been attributed to affecting rising flood waters and stronger and more frequent hurricanes. Concerns have grown as polar vortex weather has created other coastal issues such as economic losses for businesses and schools having to shut down in extreme weather, interrupted travel plans and more.
Insurance carriers that offer coastal insurance services also have a strong interest in protecting and adapting coastal communities as these extreme weather events have led to higher insurance premiums and costlier insurance claims. If the polar vortex will be sending Arctic temperatures all the way down the East coast for years to come, insurance agents will need to work with their clients to help them better prepare their property for these extreme winter weather events until more long-term solutions can be found.
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