RICHARDSON: Mommy, what’s a polar vortex?

crichardson@macon.comJanuary 26, 2014 

Brrrr. How many of you, dear readers, had “polar vortex” as part of your vocabulary before the cold snap in late December? I’m not afraid to admit I had never heard of the phenomenon. While its been around -- probably forever -- we just started noticing it in 1853. Polar vortexes, also known as polar cyclones, occur in the upper troposphere and the stratosphere. Normally they stay up north where they belong and rarely stray. But as I write this, its 23 degrees outside. Friday morning it was 18 degrees. We are about 12 degrees colder than normal. What’s up with that?

I don’t want to get into a debate about “global warming” or “climate change.” I go along with the scientists who say it’s real, but I kind of side with the naysayers when they ask “What can we do about it?”

If you think climate change is the invention of a bunch of tree huggers, of which I am one, think again. Something’s going on. While we sit with our outside faucets dripping to keep them from freezing, there are folks down under in Australia having the opposite issue. I’ve been watching the Australian Open tennis tournament, and last week players and ball boys were fainting, cramping up and vomiting as their water bottles melted and their very expensive tennis shoes were sticking to the court. In January, the average temperature in Melbourne is supposed to range between 58 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Not so last week as the thermometer hit 109. Some say it felt like 120 degrees.

There is more evidence that something is going on with our little planet. While Georgia just came out of an extended drought, California is living up to its name as the Sunshine State -- oops, sorry, that’s Florida. California is the “Golden State,” and it’s a bit too golden right now. California is in the clutches of its worst drought in history. Gov. Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown said, “It’s not likely to rain for several weeks.” Brown is considering rationing water.

I didn’t get the full brunt of a drought 3,000 miles away until I read a piece at In Michael Snyder’s article, he explained how important California is to the rest of the country.

“The state produces 99 percent of the artichokes grown in the U.S., 44 percent of asparagus, a fifth of cabbage, two-thirds of carrots, half of bell peppers, 89 percent of cauliflower, 94 percent of broccoli, and 95 percent of celery. Leafy greens? California’s got the market cornered: 90 percent of the leaf lettuce we consume, along with and 83 percent of romaine lettuce and 83 percent of fresh spinach, come from the big state on the left side of the map. Cali also cranks a third of total fresh tomatoes consumed in the U.S. -- and 95 percent of ones destined for cans and other processing purposes.”

Here’s something that should surprise us being from the Peach State and all. California produces 84 percent of peaches, 88 percent of fresh strawberries and 97 percent of fresh plums? Actually, Georgia is the third-largest peach-producing state behind California and South Carolina. There is some solace: Our peaches taste better, in my humble opinion.

Oh, and did you hear this may be an El Niño year?

Have we dumped too much stuff in our atmosphere? Certainly. That and all the natural stuff that occurs is starting to pay us back. I’ve seen up close and personal the impact of air pollution, and I’m not talking about Los Angeles. Check out the air quality (an oxymoron) in Beijing or Shanghai. There are days when you can’t see the super tall building standing just feet from you. The results of a few decades of unbridled pollution in the name of growth are choking the Chinese.

Whatever it is that we are doing to harm our atmosphere, we should just stop it. Chances of that happening? None. We might want to buy a few shares in 3M. They make respirators. And at the rate we’re going, we going to need them.

Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraph’s editorial page editor. He can be reached at 478-744-4342 or via email at Tweetcface fontname="Regular" naxe="0" iaxis="0"/>

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service