Yosemite Falls Has Been Revived By the Drought-Ending Winter

Michele Debczak
Michele Debczak

Some of Yosemite’s most iconic landmarks—like the Half Dome and the Grizzly Giant sequoia tree—have looked more or less the same since the park was first founded in 1890. But Yosemite Falls is constantly changing, and for the past five years, the impact of California’s drought could be seen at the site, as well as other places throughout the park. Now, after a winter of above-average snowfall, ABC 7 reports that the waterfall is the fullest it has been in years. The creeks and falls reach peak flow during spring of each year. This season the streams are especially impressive, as they’re fueled by the melting of record-breaking snowpack. There’s no better place to see a waterscape in Yosemite than at Yosemite Falls. Yosemite Falls is among the tallest waterfalls on Earth. Waters from Yosemite Creek fall a total of 2425 feet before settling into the valley below. The falls are expected to grow heavier until May, at which point they’ll taper off in the summer heat. During the park’s driest seasons, Yosemite Falls is sometimes reduced to less than a trickle.

The flow will likely last longer this season, but if visitors wish to see it at its strongest, they should plan to head to the park sometime in April or May. This upcoming weekend the park is expected to attract lots of guests: The entrance fee, normally $30, is being waived on April 22 and 23. [h/t ABC 7]

What is a Polar Vortex?

Edward Stojakovic, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Edward Stojakovic, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

If you’ve turned on the news or stepped outside lately, you're familiar with the record-breaking cold that is blanketing a lot of North America. According to The Washington Post, a mass of bone-chilling air over Canada—a polar vortex—split into three parts at the beginning of 2019, and one is making its way to the eastern U.S. Polar vortexes can push frigid air straight from the arctic tundra into more temperate regions. But just what is this weather phenomenon?

How does a polar vortex form?

Polar vortexes are basically arctic hurricanes or cyclones. NASA defines them as “a whirling and persistent large area of low pressure, found typically over both North and South poles.” A winter phenomenon, vortexes develop as the sun sets over the pole and temperatures cool, and occur in the middle and upper troposphere and the stratosphere (roughly, between six and 31 miles above the Earth’s surface).

Where will a polar vortex hit?

In the Northern Hemisphere, the vortexes move in a counterclockwise direction. Typically, they dip down over Canada, but according to NBC News, polar vortexes can move into the contiguous U.S. due to warm weather over Greenland or Alaska—which forces denser cold air south—or other weather patterns.

Polar vortexes aren't rare—in fact, arctic winds do sometimes dip down into the eastern U.S.—but sometimes the sheer size of the area affected is much greater than normal.

How cold is a polar vortex?

So cold that frozen sharks have been known to wash up on Cape Cod beaches. So cold that animal keepers at the Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada once decided to bring its group of king penguins indoors for warmth (the species lives on islands north of Antarctica and the birds aren't used to extreme cold.) Even parts of Alabama and other regions in the Deep South have seen single-digit temperatures and wind chills below zero.

But thankfully, this type of arctic freeze doesn't stick around forever: Temperatures will gradually warm up.

A Simple Trick for Defrosting Your Windshield in Less Than 60 Seconds

iStock
iStock

As beautiful as a winter snowfall can be, the white stuff is certainly not without its irritations—especially if you have to get into your car and go somewhere. As if shoveling a path to the driver’s door wasn’t enough, then you’ve got a frozen windshield with which to contend. Everyone has his or her own tricks for warming up a car in record time—including appropriately-named meteorologist Ken Weathers, who works at WATE in Knoxville, Tennessee.

A while back, Weathers shared a homemade trick for defrosting your windshield in less than 60 seconds: spray the glass with a simple solution of one part water and two parts rubbing alcohol. “The reason why this works,” according to Weathers, “is [that] rubbing alcohol has a freezing point of 128 degrees below freezing.”

Watch the spray in action below.

[h/t: Travel + Leisure]

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