Welcome to our article on the Polar Night Jet and its crucial role in Earth's weather patterns. In this article, we'll explore the comparison drawn by Alex McColgan between the Polar Night Jet and the massive wall in Game of Thrones that holds back the armies of the Night King. We'll also dive into the science behind the Polar Night Jet, how it acts as a barrier around the stratospheric polar vortex at the North Pole, and how it prevents the powerful icy force to the north of Earth from overflowing its bounds and rushing southward. While the Polar Night Jet provides relatively tranquil conditions in nations to the south, we'll discuss how disruptions to its path can cause extreme weather conditions that can be devastating if not properly prepared for.
In his article on Milankovitch cycles, Alex McColgan drew a comparison to Game of Thrones that turned out to be quite fitting. In the show, the armies of the Night King are trapped behind a massive wall in the north, just as there exists a powerful icy force to the north of Earth seeking to overflow its bounds and rush southward. This winter is kept at bay by the Polar Night Jet, a mighty wall that allows for relatively tranquil conditions in the nations to the south. However, when the wall is breached, a wave of ice sweeps down and threatens all in its path. The Polar Night Jet protects us from the Polar Vortex, a biting chill that should not be underestimated. There are two polar vortexes on Earth, one at each pole, each with a tropospheric and stratospheric polar vortex. These massive cyclones sit over the poles, spinning with the planet's rotation with wind speeds that can reach up to 240 km/h. The Polar Vortex is trapped and clashes against winds coming in from all sides, but it is redirected into a vortex by the Coriolis force, which is why we get jet streams. The jet stream around the south pole is relatively stable and overrules the polar winds trying to leave the polar air mass, dragging the entire polar cell into a massive vortex spanning Antarctica.
The Polar Night Jet is a crucial component of Earth's weather patterns, particularly in the northern hemisphere. During the winter months, the Polar Night Jet acts as a barrier around the stratospheric polar vortex at the North Pole, preventing it from moving southward and causing even more frigid temperatures. This colder climate creates a deeper pressure difference between the air around the pole and the air further south, which actually strengthens the forces that create the Polar Night Jet, meaning that during the coldest part of the year, this freezing air is usually well-contained. However, certain zones such as the boundary between sea and land or the presence of a large mountain can cause disruption to the wind and lead to deviations in the Jetstream's path. Additionally, weather phenomena like El Nino can also impact the Jetstream's path. Such deviations can cause oscillations that eventually lead to a breach in the Jetstream, resulting in sudden stratospheric warming and the southern-moving westerly winds overpowering the Jetstream, partially or completely reversing its flow. This can cause arctic wind to move southward, meeting warmer air and pushing faster and faster southward to attempt to balance the gradient. The entire Jetstream buckles and reorients itself, travelling down the planet so that regions like Europe and America that are usually safely on the warm, temperate side of the polar night jet suddenly find themselves in the domain of the polar vortex. This can result in extreme cold temperatures and weather conditions that can be devastating if not properly prepared for. While imbalances in global temperatures eventually restore themselves and the Jetstream returns to its previous position, it's worth noting that some level of Jetstream breakdown occurs in the north six times every decade. The mechanisms behind such breakdowns are not fully understood, and it's difficult to say what influence global temperature increases might have on Jetstream patterns. However, despite its potential for extreme weather conditions, the Polar Night Jet is a crucial bastion of protection against frigid temperatures and a reminder of the incredible majesty of our planet's weather patterns.
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