Low to Ride Mangled Jet Stream From the Ohio River Valley to California and Back

GOES Retrograde California

Retrograde low now centered just west of California trailing a long string of rain and thunderstorms across California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and on down into Mexico.

(Image source: NOAA)

On about July 11th, I began to report on a strange weather phenomena involving an upper level low moving backwards against the Jet Stream. At that time, there were a few reports among meteorologists that such an event was possible and could affect the weather in the central and western US, causing more rainfall and storms for a longer period of time. There was some discussion that the low might end up in Mexico before moving back east.

All this prediction was strange enough. Retrograde systems do happen now and then, but their motion is normally truncated, only progressing a few hundred miles west at most then returning to the typical pattern of west to east movement. But this retrograde acted differently, traveling almost directly against the Jet Stream flow for hundreds and then, ultimately, for about 3,000 miles. As of last week, the motion was so abnormal that climate scientists began to comment on its likelihood. In general, there’s about a 1 in 300 chance of such an event happening in July, making this retrograde system a 1 in 300 year event.

So the low did move backwards into Arizona, New Mexico and eventually California where it dumped rain day after day, alleviating drought conditions there while also setting off flash floods. Today, flooding in Phoenix was so intense that numerous motorists had to be rescued as their vehicles were inundated under flash floods no current infrastructure could handle. Up to two inches of rain fell within about a half an hour in numerous locations. Large storms also doused fires even as they set off localized flooding events in California. Some areas of New Mexico experienced their first rainfall in over 100 days.

The flood event in Phoenix today is described in the following video:

Over the next few days, the low is expected to slowly move northward, drifting into northern California then Oregon before being picked up by the Jet and lazily pushed eastward by its feeble flow. Over the next 7-10 days it will transition once more to the place it started — the Ohio river valley. Models are too uncertain, at this time, to determine if the low will again get sucked into the eddy that drew it all the way to the west coast. But with the Jet Stream so weak odd weather events such as this one are now becoming the norm.


Jet Stream so Weak Weather Systems are Moving Backwards

Leave a comment


  1. I’ve been studying climate since the late 60’s, but this retrograde low phenomenon is news to me. Your earlier post attributed it to an abnormally weak jet stream possibly resulting from high Arctic temperatures.

    Are both the polar jet and the higher altitude subtropical jet being affected?

    The dramatic rise in polar temperatures we’re witnessing are consistent with climate change, but I haven’t read that the models predict either an increase in retrograde systems or an increase in the frequency/persistence of stationary air masses. If this continues, the degree of future droughts and floods could be much worse than has been forecast.


    • The polar jet has slowed by 14% since the 1980s. The result is more high amplitude waves and cut off lows. The subtropical jet, during late summer has also tended to push further north, creating some of these back currents.

      Dr. Jennifer Francis has pioneered work in understanding how these changes are taking place. In short, polar amplification changes the height of the atmosphere at the pole. The result is that the temperature difference between the poles and the lower lattitudes is less and the Jet moves more slowly, creating more meanders and more persistent weather.

      You are entirely right to conclude that this tends to fix weather in a drought/flood polarity. Adding to this problem is the hydrological cycle, which has increased in velocity by about 6% due to a .8 C rise in global temperature. Water evaporates more rapidly due to the added heat and falls more intensely back to Earth during rainfall events.

      So when you add this particular dynamic to the fact that droughts and flood persist over a given space of land for longer periods, you end up with a very vicious set of conditions.

      There’s an excellent film on this subject here:


      It’s about 15 minutes and examines some of the driving forces I’ve just described in more detail.

      I’ve greatly enjoyed your posts. Keep writing them. They’re much needed.

      Warmest regards to you.


  2. Funny thing is the Southern Hemisphere is having the exact opposite the last several years.

    Record cold waves and high rainfall in populated areas is leading to devastation which more cold weather is expected to hit.

    With the Northern Hemisphere losing so much ice and the Southern Hemisphere gaining it should create an unequal weight balance issue which may be what leads to the polar shift we are overdue for?

    I doubt my comment will get past the queue no thanks to the global warming extremists blocking it . (sigh) Goes to show the jerks running things.


    • Michael…

      I’m allowing this post to give you an opportunity to acknowledge your error.

      You seem to believe that ‘jerks running things’ have completely made up the existential crisis that is human caused global warming and climate change. If by ‘jerks running things’ you mean scientists, then you clearly missed a basic understanding of who runs government — elected politicians and not scientists.

      Of those elected politicians a substantial number, like you, believe that global warming does not exist. They, like you, ignore the 97% consensus among scientists that human caused global warming is happening now and causing serious effects. They, like you, ignore the fact that not one peer reviewed paper has adequately addressed the .8 degree Celsius warming that is 1/5 the difference between now and the last ice age, but on the side of hot, without also implicating the 1.5 trillion tons of carbon we’ve emitted into the atmosphere since the 1880s.

      NOAA, NASA, the World Meteorological Organization and every major scientific body acknowledges this problem as fact. They are not ‘jerks running things.’ They are groups of scientists who spend their lives trying to figure out how the world works and they do it for our benefit. They are not rich corporations, making billions. And many of them live far more austere lives than if they had spend their efforts and substantial intellects more selfishly, like gaming the stock market, for example.

      One scientist, Michael Mann, who faced outrageous attacks on his person by oil special interests for simply showing scientific evidence that the Earth had dramatically warmed in the 20th Century, could not even spend the money to defend himself legally. Instead, he was forced to beg for outside help from a crowd-sourced legal defense fund. Every claim against him has been proven false, but it hasn’t stopped agencies like National Journal and CEI from lying about his character. Is Michael Mann one of the ‘jerks running things?’ If so, he seems to be lacking a great deal of power.

      As for the southern hemisphere… All of the four large grids in the south are showing hotter than average temperatures. One region in South America is now cooler than normal, but it is just one area in a swath of hot. Australia, just last year, experienced its hottest summer on record. The Antarctic ice sheet is melting at the rate of 500 cubic miles each year and the ice shelves in contact with the ocean are collapsing.

      The globe averaged second hottest on record in June. And we have experienced 340 consecutive months of above average temperatures. If you are 28 years old or younger, you have not experienced a year in which the Earth was cooler than average.

      You’d mentioned sea ice expansion in the southern ocean. And this one instance of a negative feedback is, indeed, happening, despite rising temperatures in the southern hemisphere. But the science you ignore shows that the reason this is happening is due to two factors. One, the fresh water melt from Antarctica helps to preserve the sea ice by raising its melting temperature and two, the same fresh water melt is preventing a warm ocean current from contacting the sea ice from beneath. So, in essence, we have traded land ice for sea ice even as the southern hemisphere warms.

      Now, it is true, that I usually do not allow comments from misinformers like you. Why? Because you have shown a great propensity to generate fraud (deliberate untruth) regardless of how many times you are proven false. So if you wish to spread lies about the current state of the science, about who is ‘running things,’ or tell untruths about how the ‘southern hemisphere is cooling,’ then you can take your confusion, misinformation, and blatant falsehoods elsewhere.

      Go back to Fox News or WUWT or some other site that deliberately ignores the science, supports an entirely political agenda, and, otherwise, has no interest in preventing the harm to a vast number of people that is sure to come from human caused warming if we do not both recognize the problem and generate a concerted response. I’m sure they have enough money, influence, and power to continue supplying you with happy, comfortable, nonsensical stories all the way until doomsday.

      Not so here. Because ‘the jerk running things’ though an independent individual unsupported by outside agencies and working under the direct control of nothing more than his own intellect and conscience is determined to represent the truth that is directly apparent in the sciences and to not allow misleaders to run amok, as they have in so many other places.

      Lastly, you’ve taken the dubious title ‘Archangel Michael.’ But I think it is false. For you have, wittingly or no, sided with the ‘destroyers of the Earth…’ whom the God you claim to represent reviles.

      So, as I said before, acknowledge your error or I shall banish thee, false angel, elsewhere.


  3. Steve

     /  July 23, 2013

    I found your blog about a week and a half ago through a google search for weather patterns moving east to west. Last week was the second time this month I was seeing something that I didn’t recall ever seeing before. The information that I found from you and some of your other posts have been very fascinating.

    The only thing that I disagree with, and time will tell who is right, is that you think there is still time to turn things around. I do believe based on how quickly things are now occurring that it is too late for that. I’ve seen nothing but predictions greatly underestimate the speed that change is happening. The party is over. I have little doubt that things are really going to start hitting the fan. I didn’t look back far enough to see if you posted about the two hour rainfall in South America maybe 4-6 weeks ago. I think it was in Argentina when 16 inches of rain fell in two hours. It’s going to get really, really ugly. I can’t see anything major being done in the next 5 years. I hate to be so pesimistic, but anything resembling optimism seems to be a fantasy. I was watching a video of Jennifer Francis last year, I believe in the fall, and she made the comment that today is tomorrow. She said that the day which was always thought to be far in the future, when we would see the bad effects of what we’ve done to our environment, was now here. In the video, she was extremely worried that an arctic blast would extend far to the south and linger and become a catastrophe. I imagine her concern for said event has only increased.

    I look forward to your future posts.


    • You may be right. But I believe that the most responsible thing to do, at this time, is to mitigate (prevent) as much future damage as possible.

      It is true that we will have to adapt to serious damage already in the pipe. And it may be true that such adaptation will not be successful. But it will certainly not be successful if we keep adding to the damage we’ve already caused.

      Warmest regards to you and best wishes.


  4. Steve

     /  July 23, 2013

    If what we’ve experienced so far, along with Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson’s admission of man made climate change, isn’t a catalyst of needed change, it’s going to take something of epic proportions to do it. By that time……


    • The next few decades are going to be tough. Probably not tough enough to knock us out, but tough enough to be damaging, costly and harmful. At this point, we’ll have clear evidence that we need to prevent as much damage as possible.

      At 400-450 ppm CO2 — the range that is likely to be achieved over the next few decades — we will lock in between 3-4 degrees C of temperature change long term. If we can stop emissions by 450 and 2030, then that’s what we’ll have to deal with in the worst case (amplifying feedbacks eventually get us to the new temps and carbon sinks don’t behave as we hoped they would).

      Humans may be able to adapt to such conditions. It will be difficult but it’s not getting the PETM or worse.

      So is it too late to prevent major consequences — certainly. But is it too late to prevent the end of humanity? Not by a long shot as yet.


  5. Steve

     /  July 23, 2013

    My reference to too late is not referring to the end of humanity. Change will be made when it is literally forced upon us. Unfortunately it appears that it won’t happen before then.

    When I think of too late, I think of the following effects being inevitable:coastal cities becoming uninhabitable, food production getting drastically reduced and leading to the loss of hundreds of millions of lives if not billions, species getting wiped out that will lead to other unknown catastrophes, and financial ruin to most if not all developed countries. Life as we know it here in the US today will be greatly altered.


    • Some of those effects will certainly happen. We can probably already kiss Miami goodbye and almost all coastal cities are now under threat. The US Southwest is at risk of becoming nonviable due to water stress over the next few decades. Agriculture will face severe challenges from droughts, floods, and increasingly damaging storms. All these impacts will cause financial stress.

      Globally, there is a high risk that some countries will fail. Major weather events may completely wreck the infrastructure of entire regions or even countries for weeks, months or even years. Migration will add to the stresses.

      In my view, these events are ones we’re going to have to deal with. But worse is on the way if we don’t cut fossil fuel emissions to zero before 2030 to 2040.

      Best to you and thanks for the very insightful comments and questions.


  6. I happen to agree that, while climate change is already happening, doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Those who want to believe that climate change is not happening are the ones who would have us do nothing, which won’t help matters at all. Unfortunately, there are WAY too many of those people around.

    By the way, I love how you schooled archangelmichael! 😀 Unfortunately, FOX News keeps fueling that global warming conspiracy crap. They have even said more than once during the winter that if global warming is happening, then why isn’t it getting warmer????? That’s why I often use the term “climate change” because some people actually get confused by “warming!”


  1. Another Week of Climate Disruption News, July 28, 2013 – A Few Things Ill Considered

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