My first polar vortex

Why is snow so cozy? Until it’s not, of course, or if you are unprepared… Like the young man I met at the bus stop yesterday evening, who obviously had not looked at the weather report and stood shivering in a hooded sweatshirt and jeans.

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Snow on a VW on the Hill

“I am not accustomed to this kind of weather,” he said, in what I think was a Bengali accent. “Where do you get this?” he asked, reaching out to touch my wool coat.
He wasn’t the only underdressed person I saw yesterday. The weather had been a balmy 72 F (21 C) on Sunday

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Sunday evening sunset

evening at 5 pm — roses have been blooming, the weather for the past few months for hiking and running and biking has been fabulous.  The young men and women I saw on campus were wearing shorts, short skirts, flip-flops…
But the weather forecast was clear: the temperature was going to plunge rapidly with the arrival of winter storms via Alaska and the northern Pacific. The weather pattern must be a mix of the El Niño Southern Oscillation and other decadal Pacific ocean patterns that are leading to a short hiatus in global warming, a brief leveling out of temperature increases from the ongoing changes in climate triggered by greenhouse gases we humans are pumping into the environment. This weather pattern also is the second “polar vortex” to freeze the US in the past year or so — the first one was probably linked to climate change, and this one probably is too.
I was safely ensconced in Sweden for the first one and felt relief I was well away from the brutal cold that people complained about on the East Coast in particular — even as I was complaining about the dearth of cold weather and ice skating opportunities. Even so, I was fascinated to watch the weather change so dramatically on Monday morning: mid-50s at 10 am, and three hours later, snowing and somewhere in the 20s F (let’s say about 12 C to -5 C, by my guess). That’s crazy! (Go watch the cli-fi favorite The Day After Tomorrow — it’s extreme, but I wonder how many people are thinking of that now?)
I admit to feeling a little smug yesterday, on my way to campus all bundled up and with extra layers in my bag. OK, so I read the weather report! But I was not prepared for cold feet and fingers while waiting for the bus this morning (14 F/-9 C), and now I am worried about tomorrow, which will be even colder. My apartment management company left notes about leaving our heat on so pipes don’t burst, and the cold coming in through my thin double-paned (!) windows makes me miss the triple-paned gas-filled ones we have at home. I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences in efficiency in the US versus Sweden. How did that happen, philosophically and economically?

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I am also slightly worried about the young man at the bus stop last night, who was visibly shivering as he wrote down the names of shops I gave him where he could buy a relatively cheap warm winter coat. I hope he makes it to one soon. In the meantime, the temperature is supposed to hit a high in the 40s F (4 C) on Thursday — I assume the snow will be gone by then!

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