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As Polar Vortex Approaches The U.S, Scientists Warn To Get Used To It

This symptom of global warming is counterintuitive for those in the cross-hairs of these extreme cold spells

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Ice forms as waves crash along the Lake Michigan shore in Chicago, Illinois, Jan. 27, 2014. VOA

It might seem counterintuitive, but the dreaded polar vortex is bringing its icy grip to parts of the U.S. thanks to a sudden blast of warm air in the Arctic.

Get used to it. The polar vortex has been wandering more often in recent years.

It all started with misplaced Moroccan heat. Last month, the normally super chilly air temperatures 20 miles above the North Pole rapidly rose by about 125 degrees (70 degrees Celsius), thanks to air flowing in from the south. It’s called “sudden stratospheric warming.”

That warmth split the polar vortex, leaving the pieces to wander, said Judah Cohen, a winter storm expert for Atmospheric Environmental Research, a commercial firm outside Boston.

“Where the polar vortex goes, so goes the cold air,” Cohen said.

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Pedestrians gather at a bus stop during snowfall along Lexington Avenue, Jan. 21, 2014 in New York. VOA

By Wednesday morning, one of those pieces will be over the Lower 48 states for the first time in years. The forecast calls for a low of minus 21 degrees (minus 29 Celsius) in Chicago and wind chills flirting with minus 65 degrees (minus 54 Celsius) in parts of Minnesota, according to the National Weather Service.

The unusual cold could stick around another eight weeks, Cohen said.

“The impacts from this split, we have a ways to go. It’s not the end of the movie yet,” Cohen said. “I think at a minimum, we’re looking at mid-February, possibly through mid-March.”

Americans were introduced to the polar vortex five years ago. It was in early January 2014 when temperatures dropped to minus 16 degrees (minus 27 Celsius) in Chicago and meteorologists, who used the term for decades, started talking about it on social media.

This outbreak may snap some daily records for cold and is likely to be even more brutal than five years ago, especially with added wind chill, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private weather firm Weather Underground.

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U.S. Postal Service letter carrier Jamie Jasmon struggles through snow and below zero temperatures while delivering the mail, Jan. 6, 2014, Springfield, Illinois. VOA

When warm air invades the polar region, it can split the vortex or displace it, usually toward Siberia, Cohen said. Recently, there have been more splits, which increase the odds of other places getting ultra-cold, he said. Pieces of the polar vortex have chilled Europe, Siberia and North America this time. (It’s not right to call the frigid center of cold air the polar vortex because it is just a piece or a lobe, not the entire vortex, said University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Jason Furtado.)

When the forces penning the polar vortex in the Arctic are weak, it wanders, more often to Siberia than Michigan. And it’s happening more frequently in the last couple decades, Furtado said. A study a year ago in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society looked at decades of the Arctic system and found the polar vortex has shifted “toward more frequent weak states.”

When the polar vortex pieces wander, warmth invades the Arctic, Alaska, Greenland and Canada, Masters said. While the Midwest chills, Australia has been broiling to record-breaking heat. The world as a whole on Monday was 0.7 degrees (0.4 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1979-2000 average, according to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer.

Some scientists — but by no means most — see a connection between human-caused climate change and difference in atmospheric pressure that causes slower moving waves in the air.

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A man clears snow from sidewalk in downtown Chicago, Jan. 12, 2019. A winter weather advisory for the region was in effect until 3 a.m. Sunday. (VOA)

“It’s a complicated story that involves a hefty dose of chaos and an interplay among multiple influences, so extracting a clear signal of the Arctic’s role is challenging,” said Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center. Several recent papers have made the case for the connection, she noted.

“This symptom of global warming is counterintuitive for those in the cross-hairs of these extreme cold spells,” Francis said in an email. “But these events provide an excellent opportunity to help the public understand some of the ‘interesting’ ways that climate change will unfold.”

Also Read: Antarctica’s Ice Melting Six Times Faster Due To Global Warming: Study

Others, like Furtado, aren’t sold yet on the climate change connection.

Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Victor Gensini, who has already felt temperatures that seem like 25 degrees below zero, said there’s “a growing body of literature” to support the climate connection. But he says more evidence is needed.

“Either way,” Gensini said, “it’s going to be interesting being in the bullseye of the Midwest cold.” (VOA)

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Global Online Music Streaming Platforms Witness 32% Increase in Subscriptions, Spotify Tops With 31% Share

The online music streaming subscription is expected to grow more than 25 per cent (YoY) to exceed 450 million subscriptions by the end of 2020

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Spotify topped with 31 per cent share of the total revenue and a 35 per cent share of the total paid subscriptions. Wikimedia Commons

Global online music streaming subscriptions witnessed 32 per cent jump year-on-year (YoY), reaching 358 million subscriptions in 2019, according to a new report.

Spotify topped with 31 per cent share of the total revenue and a 35 per cent share of the total paid subscriptions. Apple Music followed with 24 per cent share of total revenues in the industry and 19 per cent share of the total paid subscriptions, according to the report from Counterpoint Research.

At third place, Amazon Music subscriptions reached 15 per cent share in 2019, compared to 10 per cent in 2018. “Paid subscriptions grew 32 per cent YoY compared to 23 per cent YoY growth of total monthly active users (MAUs). This suggests people are ready to pay for music streaming for a hassle-free experience,” Research Analyst Abhilash Kumar said in a statement.

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However, this is not completely user-driven. “Music streaming platforms are following a two-step approach to gain subscribers, first registering them to their platform as free users by means of excellent advertising campaigns and secondly pitching them with attractive offers to transfer them to become paying subscribers,” Kumar elaborated.

Due to Apple’s high focus on its services segment which includes Apple Music, its subscription base grew 36 per cent YoY in 2019. Despite global players strongly pushing their music streaming platforms, regional players stand strong in their respective regions, said the report. Gaana continues to be the top player in the Indian market while Yandex Music is leading in Russia.

Similarly, Anghami leads the Arab world and Tencent Music Group leads the China market with the help of its apps QQ Music, Kugou and Kuwo.

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At third place, Amazon Music subscriptions reached 15 per cent share in 2019, compared to 10 per cent in 2018. Wikimedia Commons

On the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the OTT industry, Kumar said: “During this outbreak, audio OTT consumption has switched from music streaming to the radio. People in highly-affected areas are worried about the outbreak and are therefore continuously tuned to news on TV/radio for updates”.

The online music streaming subscription is expected to grow more than 25 per cent (YoY) to exceed 450 million subscriptions by the end of 2020. Meanwhile, more than 80 per cent of music streaming revenue came from paid subscriptions.

ALSO READ: List of 5 Political Thrillers That You Can Watch Amidst Coronavirus Lockdown

The rest came from advertisements and partnerships with brands and telcos. Therefore, increasing paid subscriptions is of prime importance for music streaming platforms, said the report. (IANS)