8 pics of the polar vortex causing widespread flight delays

2014-01-08 09:16
New York - North America is being gripped by -40 degree Celsius temperatures, crippling key international airports and forcing a state of emergency in New York.

Glacial temperatures gripping large parts of the United States and Canada disrupted thousands of flights on Tuesday, creating more challenges for airlines seeking to recover from recent snow and ice storms.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has also declared a state of emergency as a frigid blast of arctic air that broke decades-old records in the middle United States moved eastward on Tuesday.

The cold weather froze fueling equipment for planes, forcing airlines to cancel flights.

Delta Air Lines said ice and snow at its Detroit hub that disabled fuel gear led it to suspend regional flights there on Tuesday. Air Canada said flights to, from or connecting through 15 airports in Canada and the US Northeast could be delayed or canceled into Thursday.


Overall, more than 2 900 flights had been cancelled on Tuesday, according to flight tracker FlightAware.com. That compared with nearly 4 600 cancellations on Monday.


Among major carriers, Southwest had canceled 309 flights on Tuesday and JetBlue had 216 cancellations, according to FlightAware.com. United Continental had 117 halted flights, and American Airlines and its American Eagle unit had 500 cancellations combined.

Airports taking the hardest hit were Chicago O'Hare, where 383 flights, or about 31 percent, of flights were canceled; and Toronto Pearson, where 119 flights, or 19 percent of its total, were halted.


At Chicago O'Hare, American put its fueling pumper and tanker trucks in a hangar to keep them from freezing, spokesperson Mary Frances Fagan said. Fueling was "slow but consistent," Fagan said in an email.


United was operating a reduced schedule at O'Hare because of continued effects of cold weather, spokeswoman Mary Clark noted.

Toronto's Pearson International Airport said the gusty winds and extreme cold weather, which Environment Canada said was minus 37 degrees Celsius (minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit) with wind chill, was causing equipment to freeze and posing a safety concern for workers.


Dan Baker, chief executive at FlightAware, said the current spate of cancellations tied to winter weather was not the worst airlines have seen compared with other storms in recent years.


"We're seeing only about 3 000 flights canceled a day; we've certainly seen 5 000 and above that (with other storms)," Baker said. "The reason this (current situation) is really impactful is it's tied with extreme temperatures that are so unusual." The record-breaking freeze is said to be caused by a wavy and elongated jet stream, which is carrying Arctic air far more to the south than normal.
The polar vortex effect was so powerful that it was blamed for high winds and huge ocean swells on the southwest coast of Britain, caused by an expansive, deep atmospheric depression over the Atlantic Ocean.


Britain’s high waves are said to be loosely connected to the weather system that is causing the US winter storm.


The cold weather has even been causing what is known as frost quakes in Canada. The phenomenon is caused when a sharp temperature drop causes warm water saturated in the ground to suddenly freeze, resulting in an explosion so loud it causes a frost quake or cryoseisms. These explosions are reportedly not dangerous.

The large weather phenomenon has also renewed the discussion on the impact of anthropomorphic, or human-induced, climate change.

(Reuters, AFP, Gizmodo)
Read more on:    us  |  canada  |  new york  |  flights  |  travel international  |  weather

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