The Jet Stream Effect

The atmosphere of the earth has a layered structure made of 5 distinct zones. The layer we live in is called the “troposphere” and it contains the oxygen we need to stay alive and the heat and water vapor needed to drive our weather patterns. The cold, calm layer directly above this is called the “stratosphere”. In between these two layers is a boundary line called the “tropopause”. Why is that important to know? Well, for one thing, this is the only place that jet streams exist.

Jet streams are four rivers of air that circle the earth at speeds of 80 to 270 miles per hour. There are two in the northern hemisphere and two that circle the earth in the southern hemisphere. These are called the subtropical and the polar-front jet streams because of where they are located. Interestingly enough they move faster over the hemisphere that is having winter because they are driven by temperature differences. Naturally, in winter the temperature difference is greater between the poles and the tropics. It is this big difference that ramps up jet stream speed and this in turn can make winter weather so brutally tumultuous.

The top of Mount Everest pushes up onto the tropopause and as a result it is battered by one of these jet streams as it passes over that region during seasonal change. Climbers that experience this when it slips by the peak are force to stay in their tents for days on end. This bitterly cold, hurricane force wind would literally blow them off the mountain. More than that, it would freeze them to death in a matter of minutes if they were caught in it. Yet the same jet stream is a blessing to those pilots who use it to make record time in trans-Atlantic flights. Pilots who fly against it on the other hand, cost their airline money by wasting jet fuel and by delaying arrival times.

These rivers of air are major weather makers over the whole earth and we have certainly experienced their effect here in the United States. Unfortunately for us the polar-front jet stream that crosses the U.S. decided to form a plunging loop over our southern states. This in turn has continued to funnel arctic air down from Canada and into our lower 48 states. Thus, because of the position of the jet stream I awoke today, not to the sound of robins happily soaking in the morning sun, as in previous years. No…. I was blasted from sleep by the sound of my neighbor cranking up his snow blower. Once again we had snow and sub freezing temperatures just because of how the jet stream positioned itself…. Amazing!

It astounds me that something so small, which I cannot see, has such a profound impact on my life. Its actions deeply influence not just me, but it touches the lives of so many other people. As I thought about the above reality, something hit me. Like it or not, we are all jet streams. Our movements, in and out of the lives of others, have profound implications. Like the jet stream, how we position ourselves can make a huge difference. Position your self correctly and you help others on their way, or you bring a warm spring breeze that gives joy. Position yourself incorrectly and you hinder people on their life journey, or bring another winter storm that is unwelcomed and unwanted.

My question is, “Why would you want to position yourself incorrectly?” If you can do good and really help others, then do it! Take the time to be a blessing. Speak words that bring life and are a support to those in need. The day will come when you need the same thing, and what you gave out is what will come back to you. The choice is yours to make every single day. I hope you choose well, because your future, and the future of so many others, depends on it!

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