Say hello to the “polar jet”, the new meteorological technicality that will bring the cold this winter

Say hello to the “polar jet”, the new meteorological technicality that will bring the cold this winter, Here’s a piece of news that every reader will be familiar with: it will be cold in December. Communicated like this, there is nothing new about it. It happens that from time to time meteorological phenomena occur that do deserve special attention. The one that will occupy us for the next few weeks has been called the “polar jet”, and already enjoys a predominant position in all the media of communication. A priori, it is self-explanatory (“jet” + “polar”), but requires more words.

What is it? As explained in Meteored , a basic of meteorology. The “jet streams” are large flows of air that distribute heat and cold throughout the entire planet. There are several, but the one that concerns us today is the polar one, named after the latitudes that it usually frequents, very northern. Currents play a crucial role in balancing the Earth’s climate and weather phenomena. Much of the extreme alterations that we live today are explained, as is analyzed here , by the climatic changes that the Arctic lives.

The descent . What interests us on this occasion of the “polar jet”? Your address, in this case south. As our colleagues from Xataka explained at the time, the currents generate small isolated depressions and troughs that disrupt the meteorological conditions at certain times. When a mass of warm air, for example, is isolated and directed towards the pole, another of very cold air moves in the opposite direction. It is what is going to happen next week, and what will generate isolated and icy airs in the upper layers of the atmosphere …

And squalls and exceptional cold in lower layers. In other words, at street level.

It’s not that weird . What is exceptional about the “polar jet” is not so much its occurrence as its timing. The weather that we are going to enjoy in the last weeks of November will be more like January than the heart of autumn. We will have temperatures below 0ºC and also snowfall at low altitudes, or at least at altitudes outside the mountain. For some time now, the media have translated this phenomenon as DANA : isolated depression at high levels. Or a cold, low air mass surrounded by warmer, higher ones. A “trough” (due to its V shape).

What are we talking about? “Polar jet”, “DANA”, “polar trough”. They seem somewhat convoluted terms to define what is simply “it’s autumn / winter and it’s cold.” As our colleagues from Engadget explained , this is due to an eagerness for technifying meteorological communication in recent years. Every time we know more and better, but more and more the media have / have the need to appeal to the reader through concepts of novel appearance that simply tell very old things:

The public debate around meteorology has become increasingly technical. In part, it makes no sense to deny it, it is due to the press and the tendency of many media to use complex terms in a search for greater public attention. On the other hand, we are experiencing a process analogous to other branches of science journalism, as we have seen with the coronavirus crisis. TO As of Monday, generalized rainfall and a cold environment. According to ECMWF, in the second half of the week, a forceful polar / arctic entry would be possible that would discharge very cold air over Spain. We could have temperatures well below average. Uncertainty …

– Irene Santa (@IreneSanta_) November 17, 2021 Peter and the wolf . Is this a good idea or a bad idea? One of the first lessons of journalism is that the mundane is not newsworthy. This idea should be rethought. If more and more terms of extraordinary appearance appear in relation to meteorology, it is because … There are more and more extraordinary meteorological phenomena, or at least extreme ones. Was the cold drop of 2019 just a squall ? No: the introduction of the term “DANA” helped to enhance its unique impact. It defined a new type of post-summer storm. A more destructive one.

The same goes for the sudden christening of storms ( from Gloria to Filomena). If today they have a name where they did not before, it is because their virulence is increasingly acute (it is not necessary to remember the chaos caused by the snow in Madrid last January), which is also valid for the rays or, as we all know, the heat. The usefulness of concepts like “polar jet” also comes from there: old, familiar things, but with a distinctive character. More intense. The climate that we have to live.

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