January 16, 2021

Polar Vortex 2020-2021

Major changes in the Polar Vortex will make this winter very different than last

Steve Bennett, Chief Product Officer

Our team recently had the pleasure of interviewing Everstream Analytics Chief Meteorologist Jon Davis to talk about the Polar Vortex. While the winter of 2020 has been tame so far, Jon’s team is preparing weather-sensitive supply chains for big changes as we pass winter’s half-way mark.

In a Nutshell

Last winter, a very strong and stable polar vortex persisted for most of the season. The strong/stable Vortex meant warm weather and little snow for most places. Cold air was bottled at the North Pole. As we’re coming to the mid-point of winter 2020, in contrast to last year, the Polar Vortex is weak and unstable. Asia has been feeling these effects over the past couple of weeks. Europe will feel the Vortex over the next couple of weeks. Finally, Jon expects the Polar Vortex to impact North America in February.  The Polar Vortex has become a topic of great interest in the media over the past several years and this conversation dives into detail on the Polar Vortex, which Jon calls “the PV.”

#polarvortex is trending

Business Insider recently reported, A polar vortex is bringing a cold snap to Europe and Asia – and stoking a huge rally in natural gas prices

“Natural gas prices in Europe and Asia have rocketed higher this week, thanks to the polar vortex pushing cold fronts into both regions, sending temperatures below freezing and stoking a burst in demand for power generation and heating.'”

On January 7th, CNN reported, The Polar Vortex may be on its way

“The polar vortex appears to be on the move. That’s because stratospheric warming is occurring at high altitudes above the North Pole, resulting in a spike in temperatures.  That, in turn, could result in bitter cold air pushing southward into the United States within a couple of weeks, though where exactly that Arctic air will swoop down — and for how long — remains uncertain.”

Popular Science interviewed several leading scientists in a January 11th article, The polar vortex is about to split in two. But what does that actually mean?  Dr. Andrea Lopez Lang, an atmospheric scientist at the University at Albany was quoted discussing the link between abnormally warm temperatures 10 miles above the earth’s surface and the Polar Vortex itself.

“’Most people think, why do we care what’s going on in the stratosphere? It’s 10 miles above us,’ says Lopez Lang. “The reason we care is, when we disrupt this part of the atmosphere, it takes a really long time for it to recover. It can have impacts for up to two months for the lowest part of the stratosphere to get back to normal.’”

What’s the hype?

I spoke with Chief Meteorologist Jon Davis to break down the recent buzz and help us identify how the Polar Vortex may impact Climate-Linked Economics for weather sensitive businesses around the Northern Hemisphere.  In this clip of our discussion, Jon explains the difference between a strong-stable Polar Vortex and a weak-unstable one.

Jon told us that a very strong and stable Polar Vortex was the headline last winter.  Counterintuitively, a strong Polar Vortex is actually linked to very warm winters in North America, Asia, and Europe. The first half of this winter has also been characterized by a strong and stable Polar Vortex and the U.S. has been much warmer than normal.  NOAAs National Centers for Environmental information, Climate at a Glance website reports that December of 2020 was the 5th warmest December on record in North America since 1939.

December 2020 was warmer than average across much of the nation.

The Polar Vortex began changing dramatically a few weeks ago; what will this mean for the last half of this winter?

Changes afoot

Jon demonstrates the current state of the Polar Vortex, which he calls “the PV”.

 

Sudden stratospheric warming took place at the beginning of 2021 destabilizing the Polar Vortex and causing it to weaken. Jon notes that the Polar Vortex weakened so much over the past two weeks that it’s now nearing a record low.

“Now we’re dealing with a very weak, displaced, unstable PV. And when you change the stability, going from very strong to very weak, the ramifications continue, sometimes four, six, or, in some cases, eight weeks, down the road.”  The second half of this winter will have the ramifications of this PV displacement. Those ramifications have been felt in some areas already.

Impacts in Asia

“So far the impacts have been across China, Japan, and Korea over the last week or 10 days.”  I asked Jon how the Polar Vortex destabilization is already affecting parts of the world and we zoomed into Asia.

Europe is Next

Jon is based in Barcelona, so Europe is his backyard. “The impact here has really been the last five or seven days or so. We’re starting to see [the Polar Vortex] now.”

 

“Europe had their warmest winter ever last year and records in Europe go back a long way, hundreds of years.  Last winter was warmest that they’ve seen [in a very long time] across Europe and the change this year is really dramatic. And it’s all due to the PV.”

Will the Polar Vortex move into North America?

Next, I asked Jon his thoughts on how things could play out in North America.

 

Given that the impacts for North America are still several weeks away, can we pinpoint what areas would be most likely to see winter storms?

 

“We think the western central US will be the main recipient of that flow of cold air into next month. There’s still some debate on the east coast but the overall pattern will bring about the ingredients for winter storms.”

The Climate-Linked Economics

In our “Winter is Coming” series, my colleague and Demex Climate Resilience Analyst, Dominic Hernandez explains how snow-sensitive businesses manage year-to-year cost and revenue variability with financial safeguards.

  • Part 1: Inconsistencies in snowfall present both challenges and opportunities for business managers whose revenue and/or costs are directly correlated with snowfall.
  • Part 2: It’s important to calibrate protection property-by-property.
  • Part 3: Revenue and cost modeling is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Local property nuances impact costs, revenue, and profitability.

Demex founder and CEO, Ed Byrns, told the Washington Post:

“One thing we know is that climate change is making everything more volatile.  Climate resiliency means creating a shock absorber for climate change.”

Demex aims to be that shock absorber.

Everstream Analytics said “This month, supply chain networks are bracing for bitter cold temperatures. While Europe experiences the coldest, snowiest January in years with record level accumulations, the U.S. struggles with its own triple threat of heavy snow, wind, and ice.  Global supply chains need the agility to handle elevated protect-from-freeze.”  Riskpulse experts Jon Davis and Mark Russo host “Mid-January Weather Outlook Update Webinar” to discuss how to protect the supply chain from extreme weather. Tuesday, January 19 at 10AM EST / 3PM UTC / 4PM CET. More information.

About Jon Davis and Everstream

Jon spent a few decades on Wall Street before moving into the energy sector and now he focuses on the global supply chain.

Everstream Analytics delivers a range of predictive analytics solutions that enable supply chain and logistics professionals around the world to get in front of costly delays and disruptions. For far too long, companies have been playing a never-ending game of catch-up with events outside their control – weather, supplier issues, port strikes, political unrest, a global pandemic… you name it. If you want to get ahead of it all, you’ve got to think bigger, see farther, and act sooner. That’s the Everstream Analytics approach. Through our unique capabilities, companies like Google, Schneider Electric, Unilever, and Campbell’s can grow and protect more revenue. Everstream Analytics. Get in Front of What’s Ahead. Our ability to deliver uniquely valuable insights comes from our world class team, the support of our strategic partners and Investors and what we’ve learned from our clients through developing data-driven solutions for global brands.

Director’s Cut:  Rise of the PV

In this clip, Jon and I reminisce about the Polar Vortex shifting from classroom lectures to popular conversation.  It all started with beer and cereal.