Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Winter Of Snows, Storms, Floods, Drought, Heat and Cold: A "Stuck" Jet Stream And Maybe Climate Change to Blame?

The eastern half of the United States has been stuck in a cold, stormy pattern since December.
Immense storms have repeatedly pummeled
Britain this winter. Is a "stuck" jet stream,
and by extention climate change to blame?

Out west, the song "It Never Rains In California" has never been truer than this winter, as the southern half of the state especially has been stuck in a long drought.

January in Alaska of all places was one perpetual thaw.

Britain is drowning in floodwaters after the stormiest winter in memory, with one huge blast after another hitting the region

At first glance, this might all appear unrelated. But there seems to be growing evidence that the jet stream, that river of upper level air that steers weather systems, is getting very wave, and stuck.

According to Wired UK, the jet stream exists largely because of the contrast between the the frigid Arctic and the hot tropics.

When the temperature contrast is big, the jet stream tends to scream at accelerated speeds, leading to the changeable, but usually not terribly extreme weather we all lived with, seemingly until recently.

But when the temperature contrast between the Arctic and the tropics is not as great, the jet stream gets very wavy, veering sharply to the north in spots, dipping low to the south in others. It also gets "stuck" in position more often, so if you're under a stormy spot in the jet stream, you get stuck with stormy weather for weeks on end.

The result is weeks of rain and flooding in Britain, the no rain at all in California, and one snowstorm after another in the eastern United States.

The jet stream this winter has indeed been extremely wavy with huge pushes to the north and south in different areas of the northern hemisphere.

The Arctic has been warming over the past few decades much faster than the tropics, so the consrast between the two regions isn't as great as it once was. According to Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University, this helps explain the stuck, extreme and odd weather we seem to be increasingly experiencing at mid-latitudes, like  Britain and the United States.

All this is not proven yet, but there does seem to be increasing scientific evidence that climate change might be messing with the jet stream.

With the Arctic continuing to warm faster than the tropics, Francis said we should expect more of this type of thing in the future.

Here in Vermont, there's an old saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute, it will change."

That adage might become less and less true in the future.

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