Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

California drought and the polar vortex: 'New normal' by 2030?

by Take Two®

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Ice floes fill the Hudson River as the New Jersey waterfront is seen during sunset on January 9, 2014 in New York City. A recent cold spell, caused by a polar vortex descending from the Arctic, caused the floes to form in the Hudson. Afton Almaraz/Getty Images

A second polar vortex is bearing down on the eastern United States in almost as many weeks and is expected to stick around until the end of the month.

Meanwhile here in Southern California, residents are grappling with what it means to be back in an official drought and wondering why it is so hot...in January.

Jeff Masters, director of meteorology for the Weather Underground, joins Take Two to explain our weird weather.


On why it is so hot here in California in January:

"Our weather is controlled by the jet stream, which is that band of high altitude winds that blows west to east across North America. The jet stream acts as the boundary between warm air to the south and cold air to the north.

Normally when it’s over California blowing through the center of the country you get sort of average conditions. But what’s happened is the jet now has this unusually far northward penetrating bulge over the western U.S. and a compensating dip over the eastern U.S. So it’s cold over the eastern U.S. and very warm over the western U.S."

On whether or not this weather is a surprise since climate change scientists have predicted it:

"Not really. We are in the midst of a 14-year mega drought in the Southwest including California."

On if this is the worst drought ever: 

"It’s certainly a top three drought going back over 130 years. Mega droughts occur in the Southwest U.S. naturally every 400 or so years. It has happened before, it will happen again, it seems to be happening now."

On if this is the new normal:

"If we look at climate models they say this will be the new normal about in the year 2030 and it will be considered a very, very wet year by the year 2100.

"We’re talking Sahara desert levels of moisture by the end of the century and it’s going to be really hard to maintain our agriculture and cities with that kind of moisture."

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