The hottest November ever recorded in the arctic by far took place in 2016. The result of this is that the cold air that normally hangs over the high arctic has been pushed down into the northern half of the northern hemisphere, creating what is known as the polar vortex and with it the illusion that global warming, which is causing the phenomenon, isn’t happening at all.

The last polar vortex took place in 2014, but this one has more potential to trigger very significant winter storms originating in the central Atlantic with some rolling up the eastern seaboard of North America and others impacting Ireland and the British Isles and western Europe. This is because the extraordinary arctic melt that took place in the summer of 2016 has flowed down into the north and central Atlantic, causing water temperatures to drop far enough to allow the jet stream to circulate much farther south than normal. At the same time, continued generalized heating has driven temperatures in the south Atlantic to new highs. The increased imbalance between temperatures in these two ocean areas could trigger winter storms of unusual intensity. This largely depends on how much humidity is in the air over warmer ocean areas.

NASA’s Operation Ice Bridge, which monitors and records the critically important changes in the condition of polar ice, is among the NASA programs that the Trump Administration is hoping to cancel. Without it, there will be no way to tell, for example, when and if major glaciers in Greenland and the Antarctic are about to slide into the sea and cause sea level rises that will inundate coastal areas around the world. The primary focus of such inundations in the US is Florida.

The image shows Beaufort sea iced melt in the summer of 2016.

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