Severe Storm Hits West High!
January 19, 2023
Throughout the beginning of January, the South Bay has experienced a hefty amount of rain that has caused inconveniences to residents. However, these slight disturbances have been catastrophic for many –– specifically in the Santa Cruz and San Francisco areas. The storm is known as the “Pineapple Express,” a vicious atmospheric river that has destroyed buildings and taken lives.
An atmospheric river occurs when high and low-pressure centers over the Pacific interact. Specifically in the Northern Hemisphere, where low-pressure winds circle counterclockwise and high-pressure winds circle clockwise. When these two pressures meet up, it creates an atmospheric river.
The name “Pineapple Express” comes from Hawaii, the origin of the tropical moisture that builds onto the high atmospheric winds. Low pressures are located in the Gulf of Alaska, and high pressures are located west of California. The high pressures in California create strong gusts of wind that head toward the coast. The moisture from Hawaii creates heavy winds and rain directed at the west coast, which has had dire consequences.
Residents of the South Bay and students of West High have been succumbing to the tremendous amount of rain. Cole Younger (9) found it amazing that “the rain [was] coming in so quickly,” but that it had been hard for him “to pay attention because it’s been so distracting.” Michael Oliveros (11) found the rain satisfying and stated that “the ambiance of the raindrops hitting the windows sounds pleasant.”Still, he found it a hassle to dress up for the weather and to bring an umbrella to school.
Lifestyle conditions have changed ever since the extreme weather came into the South Bay. On campus, students must take different routes to classes to avoid the large puddles along the sidewalks. Local neighborhood streets have become flooded and many are afraid to drive on the wet freeways. Mrs. Chambers, West High’s Biology Honors and Astrobiology teacher had to adapt to the changes in her daily routine. Chambers misses the ability to walk every day, a hobby she used to enjoy before the storm. She has kept her windows and doors open in her classroom for COVID-19 regulations, which has caused more moisture to appear. This caused the “tape on the walls to dissolve” and summoned a “chilly and damp” temperature in her class whilst trying to teach.
Chambers acknowledges that some of the rapid weather changes recently have been caused by the weakening of the stratospheric polar vortex located in the Arctic. The vortex usually holds cold air in the Arctic, but recently “the polar air currents have changed shape . . . [and] sag down towards the equator.” The change in shape causes the cold air from the Arctic to travel over to the mid-latitudes. However, it doesn’t change shape for long. It snaps back to its original state, causing warmer air masses to infiltrate the atmosphere. Chambers warns that it is “almost like rubber bands snapping back, which is really drawing moist air from the Pacific.”
Scientists are still researching on why there have been massive changes in polar vortexes in recent years. Residents of many areas have had to adapt to the changes in their lifestyle from the severe storms, and may have to continue to do so in the future.