Polar opposites - Extreme heat, polar vortex

The weather in the Dallas-Fort Worth region has been up and down in recent weeks, with temperature fluctuations prompting students to wear shorts one day and parkas the next. Despite temperatures reaching the freezing point for several days, it was nothing like the record cold that hit the Midwest and Eastern United States.

According to The Associated Press (AP), the polar vortex that hit the region the last week of January brought blizzards and record-setting, below-zero temperatures to that region for several days. Yet it isn’t just the Midwest that is suffering from extreme weather. Queensland, Australia is experiencing record-breaking heat and severe flooding.

Stephen Kallenberg, an environmental science professor at Richland, said the cause of the extreme weather is difficult to determine.

“This current weather event, as far as what’s going on today, needs to be studied further to see if it ties with any current global warming trends,” Kallenberg said.

As the extreme cold in the Midwest wears off and the extreme heat in Australia persists, some worry that more extreme weather events are on the way. “They are occurring more often now. Within like the decade, say within 1950 and 1960, you might have two extreme weather events or three extreme weather events on average. Now when you look at the year 2000 to the year 2010, you’re getting into like five and six extreme weather events,” Kallenberg said.

Although the weather has been relatively calm in North Central Texas, an extreme weather event is still possible. If North Texas experiences extreme cold weather this winter, there is a chance the Richland campus could be closed. Ann Hatch with DCCCD Media Relations explained how the district manages inclement weather situations.

“When the DFW area experiences bad weather late at night or overnight – usually overnight snow or icy conditions – all of the college presidents and the district’s executive vice chancellor, Justin Lonon, hold a 4:30 a.m. conference call to discuss conditions that have been reported by the DCCCD Police Department across the district,” Hatch said. “If the group agrees that conditions warrant closing that day for classes, then all colleges close because of bad weather conditions. The chancellor is kept informed of all decisions.”

DCCCD understands its students, faculty and staff commute to their campuses and will consider delayed openings or may close the schools entirely due to public safety. DCCCD has not dealt with extreme heat closures but has dealt with extreme cold weather, most recently in 2011 when the colleges were closed for five days.

If a decision is made to close the colleges due to inclement weather, they will notify the local media. The digital district communications team will post closing information on the district and college websites and, for those who signed up to receive them, phone or text notices will be sent out as well. The Inclement Weather Hotline is available for Richland students at 972-238-6196 and for Richland employees at 972-238-6912 after 6 a.m.