Polar Vortex Ripped in Half by Anomalous Jet Stream, High Arctic Experiencing 32 Degree F Above Average Temperatures Over Broad Region

A dangerous and weather-wrecking polar heat amplification in the Arctic set off by human-caused global warming keeps kicking into higher and higher gear…

What models predicted earlier this week and what we reported on Thursday has finally happened. A major influx of record-breaking winter warmth has flooded into the high Arctic, disrupting the polar vortex to the point that it is currently ripped in twain.

Average temperatures over a broad area of the north polar region are now in excess of 20 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) above daily norms for this time of year. Areas from Alaska to Norway to Greenland to the North Pole are experiencing record or near record highs. Meanwhile, the circumpolar Jet Stream has been malformed into an extraordinarily exaggerated north-south Rossby Wave pattern. An extreme amplification of a blocking pattern that has been in place for more than 10 months, pumping a continual flow of heat into the Arctic, and which, this winter, has resulted in numerous North American cold snaps comparable to those that used to happen in the 1980s and 1990s.

Polar temperature anomaly Jan 26

(Global temperature anomaly vs the 1985 to 1996 mean. Note the large regions of the High Arctic experiencing temperatures that are 20 degrees C above average or higher. Image source: NOAA)

The result is a kind of north-south flip-flop in temperatures following a polar vortex that has been ripped in half by a surge of anomalous warmth and a periodic pulsing of the Arctic’s remnant cold southward over the continents.

Yesterday, the high temperature in Svalbard, for example, less than 600 miles from the North Pole peaked at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, near all-time record warmth for this frigid region. In contrast, the high for Bethesda Maryland, thousands of miles to the south, was nine degrees lower at 23 Fahrenheit.

Hottest or near hottest ever temperatures in the Arctic are, in this case, comparable to moderately colder than average weather over Siberia and the Eastern US (As seen in the NOAA temperature anomaly map above. It is also worth noting that the 1985-1996 base-line temperature for the above map is already about .5 C above the 1880 average. So this map doesn’t take into account the full extent and impact of human-caused warming.).

The Jet Stream anomaly that linked a very large and powerful flood of warm air from the Pacific with another less powerful warm air invasion riding up over Western Europe setting off such major polar temperature extremes is now plainly visible in the University of Washington upper air flow graphic below:

Polar Vortex Ripped in Half Jan 26

(Polar vortex ripped in half. Image source: University of Washington.)

On the Pacific side, we see a powerful ridge in the Jet Stream invading deep into the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas before again turning south. Some of the warmer air carried up by this extreme northward thrust of the Jet, however, bleeds further north, spilling up and over the North Pole. There it links with the second warm air thrust coming up from Europe. To the south, the polar vortex is now misaligned and severed. The two resulting, lesser, cold vortexes are now centered hundreds of miles to the south of their typical zones — with one over Hudson Bay and the other over the Yedoma region of Siberia.

Over the next week, model forecasts predict this severing of the polar vortex to continue with the current, anomalous, pattern remaining in play at least until February 2nd.

What we are observing is the start of the tumultuous and stormy throws of an imperiled winter in the Northern Hemisphere. A crisis that is bound to continue and worsen for at least some time. One that, if we don’t stop our greenhouse gas emissions soon, will certainly progress to a period in our not too distant future when winter no longer exists, perhaps a century or two from now. But make no mistake, these episodes of extreme polar warmth during wintertime that flush the cold air out and southward are no less than the palpitating heart of winter thrumming with the terrible arrhythmia of its eventual demise.



University of Washington

Svalbard Weather Forecast, Weather Underground

Arctic Ice Graphs

Arctic Heat Wave to Rip Polar Vortex in Half

Leave a comment


  1. Miep

     /  January 27, 2014

    One of the things that winter does is kill insects. Where I live in SE NM, a relatively mild winter means heavier infestations of overwintering insects the following year. Won’t it be interesting when there is no winter?

    It’s unlikely to turn into a balanced tropical jungle without the water. A desert with no winter and no water; what is that like?

    • Under BAU, that region has Death Valley or worse conditions almost year-round by 2100. The whole area becomes a wasteland. Much of Southern Europe suffers the same fate as the Sahara spreads northward and its heat and dryness intensify.

  2. Nice post.

    Arctic like Death Valley !! What would Death Valley be like then? Volcano?

    • Robert,

      Would sea-ice start melting if temperature goes above 0 degree C? How likely is that scenario? One more question: In the short term, what are the regional consequences of warm Arctic this year? I mean, how does extremely warmer Arctic affect local regions in terms of the economy?

      • The sea ice generally melts at around -1 C. The salt content lowers the melt temp. So if ocean + air temps are above that threshold you end up with melt.

        The regions may see a flurry of economic activity near term as new shipping channels open and it becomes easier to conduct business as weather warms. New mineral wealth in some regions may be unearthed. But the Arctic will also suffer from extraordinarily severe weather, immense glacial outburst flood events, extraordinarily severe fires as warming continues to amplify, and potentially very hazardous large methane releases. In addition, many regions of the Arctic are very vulnerable to sea level rise. Lastly, polar amplification now also appears to be threatening Arctic fishing grounds. So I would say the long term economic future of Arctic regions remains very uncertain.

      • Something else we forget is that the Arctic is the “air conditioner” of the Northern Hemisphere’s growing season. So a warming Arctic will have huge impacts on our food security, too.

    • No, no. New Mexico like Death Valley.

      Arctic like Death Valley would be the result of a wet stratosphere event. And I don’t think that’s quite on the radar.

      • lanikk

         /  January 27, 2014

        Since you mentioned New Mexico…then where????? Please let me know.

        • Miep

           /  January 27, 2014

          Southeast NM where I live, lanikk. I don’t know what happens in northern and western NM, but since the population densities are much higher, that’s bound to play into it some.

          Still, from what I gather, most of our water use statewide is for ag. Down here it’s cotton and alfalfa and sorghum.

        • Desertification in the state, according to models progresses from southwest to northeast.

        • Everything below about 3000 feet elevation.

        • Miep

           /  January 27, 2014

          Carlsbad is at about 3300′, plus we have a “river” running through town, though technically the Pecos is more of a creek a lot of the time.

        • So you guys will be not quite Death Valley… Not much hope for the river. A gully that gets flushed with the occasional flood…

        • Miep

           /  January 28, 2014

          We prefer “arroyo” to “gully.” But the mere fact of the river says something about the water table.

          This would be a nice place if the miners would leave.

  3. mikkel

     /  January 27, 2014

    Well this certainly sounds like the hypothesis that ice in the Arctic is an all or nothing proposition may be correct; if the polar vortex becomes permanently destabilized then a combination of warmth and continual transport may keep ice from recovering much at all during the winter.

    • If the initial forcing wasn’t so strong, I don’t believe we’d be at such high risk of permanent destabilization. The oceans and atmosphere are receiving a huge shove and the underlying systems are starting to respond.

      • Miep

         /  January 27, 2014

        Robert and mikkel: how can the polar vortex become permanently destabilized and still be the polar vortex, especially if the ice is gone?

        • It’s not permanent, it’s part of a high instability transition. As heat continues to build in the Arctic the winter vortex begins an unstable transition to near Greenland. The second vortex over Siberia eventually collapses, overcome by the build up of ocean warmth during winter time. At some point, Greenland melt kicks in and pushes the storm center out into the North Atlantic. At that point, things would really start to get hairy weather-wise. There’s a few more stages after that.

        • Miep

           /  January 27, 2014

          Thanks for the explanation, Robert.

  4. lewiscleverdon

     /  January 27, 2014

    Robert – it’s good to see an account of the scale of impact of the oceans’ warmth on the arctic – 0.0C at Svarlbad 600mls from the pole – in January – is quite a hit.

    An aspect that seems worth stating clearly is that it is the feedbacks interactions that are driving the Jetstream disruption and resulting Climate Destabilization, and that they are doing so particularly via the feedback known as “Ocean Warming & Acidification” [OWA].
    (Note: the further OWA advances, the nearer the point where the Oceanic Carbon Sink goes into decline, leaving more of annual all-sources CO2 outputs in the atmosphere – hence it’s an emerging major feedback).

    It is of course Albedo Loss in the form of Arctic Sea Ice decline that is directly disrupting the jetstream, and this was affirmed as being a consequence of feedbacks’ direct interactions, and NOT a result of Anthro-CO2 outputs’ warming, by the IPCC kindly reporting studies in AR4 that showed how without the feedbacks’ interactive acceleration we wouldn’t be losing the Arctic Sea Ice until the 22nd century.

    One further point that warrants much wider appreciation – For the first ~35years of any feedback warming or feedback GHG output, over 90% of its warming is going into the OWA feedback. This means that it is not possible to accurately trace the amount of warming occurring, and that the interactions between feedbacks, and between feedbacks and Driven Amplifyers like Climate Destabilization are direct and immediate and are not defined – This integrated feedback response powers a very different rate of acceleration of the feedback warming than if they were only interacting after the 35yr timelag on their warming affecting the atmosphere. Of particular note is the case of Methane, which as AR5 reported decays relatively fast in the atmosphere, so that over 20yrs it has 86 times the warming effect of CO2 (tonne for tonne), and over 100 yrs it’s fallen to 34 times the effect (I mention this in case anyone reading here is unaware of it). The salient point is that this means that methane puts out about 2/3rds of that 100yrs of warming during the first 35yrs, almost all of which goes into the oceans – i.e. into the OWA feedback.

    I share your determination to put an end to the GHG emissions of course – but I’d observe that unless we raise our demand to that of a commensurate response that addresses both timelagged pipeline – and timelagged phase-out GHG’s warming – and that also clears the excess CO2 from atmosphere and oceans, the prospects of avoiding catastrophic change are very hard to discern. In short, unless and until we are stating what is needed, we’re allowing BAU to argue for its continuance.

    All the best,


    • Cheers Lewis and thanks for the points.

      I agree that a piece digging into the nuances of the OWA feedback would be interesting and informative overall. That said, I am not at all interested in breaking the link between cause (human ghg emission) and effect (various feedbacks that result from human warming).

      In metaphor, the poison (ghg emission) causes the arrhythmia (feedbacks of various kinds) and the arrhythmia causes the heart attack that eventually kills the patient. We would be willfully ignorant to ignore the poison as the initial source of the ongoing series of problems.

      There seems to be a push to attempt palliative treatment via geoengineering to treat some of the symptoms (feedbacks of various kinds). At best, these measures will buy the patient a few years. At worst, they result in a variety of harmful consequences that do not help our situation or even worsen it.

      So my focus is on the poison (ghg emission). In my view, there’s no point in even mentioning palliative measures unless we can start taking the poison out of the system.

      In short, the source of harm is the human emission. That’s what causes your feedbacks (driver or otherwise). And if we can’t stop that, we don’t have a prayer.

      Finally, I do not at all appreciate clever attempts at monkeying with the language of climate science in an attempt to muddy the issue. And I consider the rolling out of this so called ‘driver feedback’ meme to be just such an attempt.

      There is only one thing sitting in the driver’s seat of all the change we are seeing and that is human ghg emission, no matter how much various interests would hope otherwise.

      • mikkel

         /  January 28, 2014

        And yet everything he writes is true, so why not incorporate it?

        Once a system has begun to bifurcate, cause and effect are tenuous and often blinding.

        While it’s true that a lot of geoengineering is pushed by those trying to advocate BAU forever, there are “greening” alternatives that would completely undermine it by also creating less need for fossil fuels as a whole.

        In a few years things are going to get very violent and people will panic: he is merely pointing out that that stage is unavoidable. If there are no alternatives then BAU fossil fuels + sulfur, etc. will be the choice (along with complete despondency) so that is why it is pivotal to grow alternatives that can provide holistic answers now, and in the future.

        Be careful not to get caught up in viewing things as righteous struggle in which victory is possible.

        • It’s not true if you separate cause from effect. It’s subdivided and compartmentalized. Not holistic.

          If there are greening geoengineering solutions, then have at. I’m all ears.

      • mikkel

         /  January 28, 2014

        I’m just saying that the causes are dynamic since some effects create new causes.

        From 1850-~1950 there was a good amount of warming but most of it was due to increased solar activity, which our actions here have no effect on. But basic physics was enough to know that we’d see warming eventually and as you know, contrary to popular perception, several of the major physicists started making noise in the 50s, even though they were in a “pause.”

        In fact, I had a book that details a consortium talk about the next 100 years in energy and climate in which Edward Teller said decarbonizing was one of the most important focal points for society to begin immediately. He stated climate sensitivity as 6C, so he thought things were going to be catastrophic right now if we continued our path. This was from 57 or 58. Of course his recommendation was to go all nuclear, although part of the talk also focused on the massive amounts of waste and instability that LWBR have, with optimism that we would transition to ( quickly.

        And of course, 110% of the warming since the 50s is caused by emissions, so you are right that CO2 is the cause as such.

        But now that feedback loops are switching from negative to positive, we will soon face a situation in which the *incremental* contribution of emissions is far dwarfed by internal processes…for a while. Something you are great at understanding is that it is the rate of change which matters so dearly, precisely because it causes the feedbacks to morph. I wish more climatologists and the movement in general focused on that instead of the equilibrium temp.

        I believe that due to the rate we are warming, we have an effective 4-5C baked in; meaning that even if we went to zero CO2 emissions today we would get the consensus effects for 4-5C based on reaching equilibrium from CO2 alone + feedbacks + physical outcome sensitivity seems to be far greater than anticipated.

        In effect this means that modern industrial society would be destroyed in its present form and that decreasing CO2 now is merely to prevent near extinction level events like you have detailed.

        Which is a noble goal in its own right of course, but not enough to prevent massive global suffering. I have to run for now but will summarize the greening solutions I have heard about, which have the benefit of being CO2 negative, greatly reduce the need for fossil fuels even while providing some liquid fuels, and allow for reconfiguration of society in ways that make it more resilient and thus able to react towards the challenges we will soon face.

        • A feedback is not a cause. Identifying it as such is a failure to understand how greenhouse gas driven warming works. And fossil fuel companies have all too often attempted to confuse the issue by doing just that.

      • mikkel

         /  January 28, 2014

        I just ran across this and while its tone is a little off putting to us, the implications are captured completely.

        The changing world means that partnerships and mentalities that have existed for over 100 years are up for reconsideration on a global scale. A multifaceted approach that pulls in an assortment of seemingly incongruent interests (who may even be actively working against their own current ones) would be very powerful, and is possible even if most of them don’t actually give a damn about the full implications of warming.

      • mikkel

         /  January 29, 2014

        No a feedback is not a cause, but the whole notion of cause and effect is fundamentally based in reductionist logic that cannot incorporate feedbacks at all.

        CO2 is not a cause, it is a variable. It has dynamics and feedbacks and knock on effects that flow in an enormously complicated fashion. It’s true that it’s a major variable that we are directly affecting, but its dynamic nature provides enormous opportunity for both good and ill.

        I understand why you like to frame it that way, but the framing is weak because it plays into their hands. The idea of cause and effect is what makes explaining a slow down so problematic to the general populace (and regardless of whether there is a “pause,” warming certainly is falling to the lower bound of projections) and even the more savvy that understand about statistics will fail to appreciate the full extent of problems because they cannot be extrapolated.

        The idea of cause and effect is what brought down the financial system, allows us to dither while we pollute the world and underpins materialism. It allows us to be insane because there is no data that shows otherwise and creates dithering.

        It makes the solutions seem too simple and too complex all at once. It allows us to feel invincible right before the fall and despondent when there is about to be a rebirth.

        If anything, the western notion of cause and effect is the biggest problem we face.

        • OK, Mikkel. Based on this logic, I should throw out all other definitions as well. Who needs language? It’s based on logos, you know, flawed words?

          Let’s look at cause and effect a little more shall we?

          Say I were to slowly consume hydrogen cyanide. What would happen to me? What are the effects of this poison that, as we understand the definition of a ’cause,’ results in toxic actions detrimental to my body’s ability to sustain life.

          After consuming about 5 mg there are no noticeable effects. Generally, the toxic action (effect) proceeding from the cause, has not yet become visible. But the lethal agent is still in my body, waiting to do its work.

          After consuming about 40 mg, the cause (eating poison) now has noticeable consequences (effects). These effects pursuant of the cause are dizziness, weakness, and nausea. Toxic action produced by the cause (eating poison) is now underway. But the dizziness, weakness and nausea are not the cause in themselves.

          Consume about 80 mg and we now are getting close to lethality. The cause (consuming poison), is now resulting in convulsions, heart palpitations and fits of difficulty breathing. Now these will rather rapidly proceed to death, but they, themselves, are not causes of death.

          At 100 mg, the dose high enough to kill about half of all people, breathing stops and death proceeds. The cause — consuming hydrogen cyanide.

          Now some may say that the cessation of breathing at the end was what resulted in death, for example. And they would be wrong, it was the consumption of poison (cyanide).

          Now this example proceeds from the understanding that we can observe and record to be the effects of the consumption of poison. And we understand that consumption of that poison is the cause of these varying effects.

          This is basic understanding of reality and fact. Apparently such facts are too inconvenient for you, so you’ve constructed an artificial linguistic structure to attempt to side-step this basic understanding.

          In short,reality is not a frame you can avoid. If you consume poison, it will have various effects. If you emit greenhouse gasses, it will eventually poison the climate. The problem is not that we are too well acquainted with the causes and effects of our current reality. The problem is there are too many voices getting in the way of what is, at its root, a very easy to understand problem.

          This is not frame, this is no trick, this is simple reality.

          And last of all, what is this problem you have with science, Mikkel? I, for one, happen to like it. And all my assertions have been based on a direct reading and understanding of the science. Without the science, those persons who have produced fine work and observation of what is currently an ongoing crisis, then this blog and everything I’ve written would count for nothing.

          I may be frustrated with the pace of science when it comes to understanding climate change, but do not attempt to use this frustration to attack the very science from which my work progresses. Can the science improve? Yes. Should it be urged to redouble its efforts in the face of a rapidly progressing climate crisis? Certainly. Should it be destroyed or replaced as you seem to suggest? Absolutely not.

          I’m growing tired of this discussion and this playing around with definitions to muddy the issue, which is entirely clear. I will not be happy with attempts to substitute ineffective actions for the most effective actions. And I do not believe we have enough time for these distractions.

          So stop attacking the science and stop undermining definitions.

      • mikkel

         /  January 29, 2014

        Alright fair enough. Your whole analogy is completely wrong because there is no feedback present in it. .

        My problem with Science is that it is not built in reality, it is built on fundamentally flawed assumptions of reductionism. This is because logic and commonly used statistics are as well.

        I’ve worked at NRLSSC, as well as with some of the top medical and control systems researchers in the world. They know their tools are completely flawed; I’ve given presentations summarizing the work of complex systems theory explaining how the fundamental assumptions of modern science do not hold true for most real world systems and the presentations have been VERY well received. Yet at the very end the question is always the same: “OK so how do we figure out things then?”

        I do not know the answer in a formal way, and that’s why I left. As I alluded to on another thread, I’ve listened to several of the top physicists in the world — NASA scientists that helped design the modern space program — saying it would take hundreds of years to figure out the answer to that. We don’t have the time.

        On the other hand, I know enormously skilled doctors, ecologists and the like who combine scientific thought with vast intuition in order to pull off feats that cannot be formalized. I’ve studied evolution and neuroscience, to see how nature does it, and it is really quite beautiful. Society and all things natural organize in this same way.

        It is not that there is something wrong with Science, it is that the mode of thought that gave rise to the methods we use are inadequate to make the change society requires. Scientific inquiry is a wonderful way to confront and accept this head on…and a growing percentage of scientists have accepted it.

        Yet ultimately they are trapped by justification of their work and intellect. They take pride in knowing everything about something so precise it is literally nothing. They will have amazing insight and vision when talking informally, but the second they are working, it all falls apart into tortured rationalization; and the best scientists will talk about this openly.

        But ultimately, most of the best scientists I’ve met have moments of despondency because they understand the fundamental disconnect means their work will not help solve the problems we face. They just don’t know what to do about it, and their ego keeps propelling them forward lest they realize they’ve wasted their lives.

        If we are to stand a chance then the brightest minds need to be congregate and start working on real functionality instead of frittering away on models they know to be wrong. I was hoping that since your entire blog is entertaining the idea of feedback that you could perhaps think about how to write to them in order to be persuasive, but you seem content to stay inside your castle, which is quite confusing since literally all my points follow directly from the systems perspective that led to Limits to Growth and the foundation that Growth Shock talks about so eloquently.

  5. Could you please fill me in on what you mean by: “numerous North American cold snaps comparable to those that used to happen in the 1980s and 1990s.” Why were there cold snaps in the 80s and 90s? Is climate change bringing warmer winters, colder winters, more extreme fluctuation? Sorry to ask such a basic question but my husband said the above statement made it sound like nothing had changed or was remarkable about the current situation, so I’m trying to get a handle on how climate change has affected winters. He says the average warming is less than one degree and since most of the warming has happened at the poles we aren’t experiencing a temp change in North America. But he’s talking about an average, which encompasses extreme swings. Still, I’m not well informed enough to debate with him. And here in Northern Ca we had about a week of winter, and then balmy weather, with almost no snow pack. I know weather and climate aren’t the same thing, but based on observation, it seems to me that winters have changed. I know precipitation is bound up in the air and not part of the same meteorological cycle that I remember as a child. It seems that drought conditions would also bring warmer temps. Anyway, can you clarify about the cold snaps, and what happened in the 80s and 90s? Thanks.

    • This winter, we’ve experienced a 20 year cold snap for the US. The Arctic is now experiencing a 44,000 year heat wave. So there is no comparison. It is not just ‘cold here and warm there’ or a part of ‘normal weather variation.’

      The Arctic is warmer that it has been in the reckoning of human civilization. This heat has driven much of its colder air south resulting in what is, by comparison, a minor (20 year) local cold snap.

      What this means is that, in one season, the US experienced temperatures that we used to experience with high frequency during the 80s and 90s. Meanwhile the Arctic is experiencing the warmest or near the warmest conditions ever recorded.

      In general, you are correct, the overall trend for the US is for warming winters. And most winters have been warmer than the climatological average for the US over the past 10 years. For example, the US just recently experienced its hottest year on record in 2012. And this year, despite a minor winter cold snap, will likely be one of the top ten hottest years for the US by year end.

      Globally, we are also experiencing record hot years. Last year was the 4th hottest on record and the current trend is that we experience a new record year every five years on average. It has been more than 30 years since we’ve experienced even one month (globally) that was below the climatological average.

      Overall, the Earth has rapidly warmed by almost 1 degree Celsius since the 1880s. Now, as for this point about 1 degree being a ‘small’ amount of warming… Consider this simple fact:

      The difference between now and the last ice age is ‘only’ 5 degrees Celsius of temperature increase. So only 5 degrees of global cooling means New York City is buried under a mile of ice.

      So 1 degree of atmospheric warming is 1/5 the difference between now and the last ice age, but on the side of hot.

      It’s worth noting that we have achieved the same amount of warming in 150 years that it took about 2000 years to achieve at the end of the last ice age. So the pace of current human warming is unprecedented and very rapid.

      It is also worth noting that human warming is not just going into the atmosphere. It is going into the oceans, it is going into the ice sheets (and some of these are experiencing irreversible collapse), and it is going into the world’s glaciers (99 percent of which are receding).

      The heat also results in damaging changes to the hydrological cycle. The slightly less than one degree of warming we’ve caused has resulted in about a 6 percent increase in the rates of evaporation and precipitation. This means both droughts and rainfall events are more intense.

      Lastly, it is very important to note that the temperatures we are seeing now are just a foreshadowing of what is to come. It is entirely possible that we might achieve 2-4 degrees of warming by mid century if we keep burning fossil fuels as rapidly as we currently are or, even worse, continue to increase our rate of burning. By the end of this century, we are likely to see between 4 and 9 degrees warming if the fossil fuel emission doesn’t stop.

      So in a little more than two centuries, we will have warmed the world as much or more than the world warmed at the end of the last ice age and we will have packed all the massive, dangerous, and damaging changes that would result from such warming into about 1 century.

      So both the current warming and the future warming we have in store with ongoing fossil fuel emissions is very significant and very dangerous.

      • Thanks for taking the time to respond so thoroughly. He’s not a climate change denier, in fact he wrote the Cimate Change card for Occucards:
        After further discussion I think his question is “Why were there cold snaps in the ’80s and ’90s and not in the intervening decade?” Climate change is causing arctic air to dip southward, but this wasn’t the case in the 80s and 90s, so what caused cold snaps then? Did cold snaps stop in the 2000s and if so, why? He’s concerned that deniers can hear a statement like the one I quoted above as substantiation that current weather patterns are part of normal natural cycles. He knows they aren’t part of “natural variation” but he says he’s been reading similar statements in many places and is worried that without accompanying explanation it could support any inclination a reader might have to deny or write off climate change. I guess it’s as much a question about communication and messaging as about the science. The work of educating the public is creating an awkward marriage between science and communication.

      • Unfortunately climate is complex and climate change deniers attempt to create doubt in that complexity.

        Climate change deniers also tend to follow every cold snap in an attempt to use it as cherry picked evidence that global warming isn’t happening. In this case, the cold snap in the US is a part of ongoing Arctic warming. If one can’t tell that from the plain context I’ve given, then they’re clearly attempting to mangle the information that’s being put out.

        In addition, sometimes there is no way to completely bullet proof any such information from malicious attempts at manipulation. My option is that is better to accurately report these events in the correct context while incurring some risk of misinterpretation than to cede all winter time climate media to climate change deniers that go chasing every snowstorm.

        Finally, it I were to remove the 20 year cold snap information, I would be reducing the accuracy of my content. Extreme and record polar heat drove remnant Arctic cold southward toward the US creating a 20 year cold snap. That’s what happened. It’s a part of the extreme weather variations we will see as polar amplification continues. Those are the facts. I’m not going to hide them for fear of deniers. Why be afraid? They are wrong.

        What are we to do when even more extreme events come on line. We’ll probably end up with a Heinrich event in the North Atlantic. This will cause dramatic regional cooling. It will be caused by Greenland melt related to human warming. Are we to shy away from reporting the event, should it occur, in its proper context? Absolutely not. We should not fear the deniers. They are wrong.

        Lastly, there will be a high degree of extreme variation from hot to cold as polar amplification and weather destabilization progresses. There will be more extreme heat events than extreme cold events. But cold events will still happen and, in some cases, as in this one, it will be caused by warming elsewhere, as in this case.

        These are the facts and I believe we can use them to confront the deniers head on.

      • Thanks Scribbler. And just for fun:

  6. publiusmaximus

     /  January 27, 2014

    One blog I follow is this one.
    One of his latest posts addresses climate change, and how both left and right have politicized the issue. This post is titlted, “Climate change sinks the Left, while scientists unravel mysteries we must solve.”

    One of the points that this blogger, Fabius Maximus, keeps harping on is the “pause in global warming” over the past few decades. I hesitate to argue with him, because he is so sure of himself, and pleased with his position that it is scientifically unsound to diverge from the view of the IPCC reports. He believes that science mainly works by consensus, that non-consensus views are usually (but not always) wrong, and that the pause in global warming is real.

    He never, ever mentions the extreme events going on right now, for instance the bizarrely high temps in the arctic.

    I think that he believes that only averages matter, and averages taken by satellite and other “reliable” sources. To this “realist,” these extreme events are simply natural variability, or if not, simply not significant as a data point.

    Does anyone else want to take him on?

    • This is classic poor representation of the science from a blog that appears to have been wrapped up in right-wing misinformation, at least in this case.

      First, the IPCC isn’t talking about a pause in global warming. In fact, this most recent IPCC report provides the strongest case for warming of the bunch. IPCC itself claims that only those who falsely read the data find a pause in warming.

      So in talking about and, perhaps unwittingly, promoting a fake pause, this particular blogger is going against the scientific consensus. Instead, he is siding with journalists who have wantonly misrepresented and misreported the warming data and misreading a few scientific reports that brought up the question of a potential slow-down in atmospheric warming.

      Looking at the long term-record, atmospheric warming has been steady for at least four decades. Other measures of warming, such as ocean warming and ice melt are actually increasing (ocean heat content, rate of glacial melt). So, for there to be a pause we need atmospheric warming to stop (it hasn’t), ocean warming to stop (it’s speeding up), and glacial melt to stop (it’s speeding up).

      In short, the best response to this nonsense is to tell the particular fool or duped person who spouts it that he is mangling statistics and misrepresenting the science. If he continues, refer him to this NASA GISS report:

      The report shows sustained atmospheric warming. In other words no pause in this indicator.

      So given these facts, why is this individual continuing to misrepresent the science?

      • mikkel

         /  January 28, 2014

        The focus on “consensus” without realizing what underpins it is the reason I wrote so many comments on that other post.

        In my experience, people like him are the absolute worst at actually looking at reality, and more or less worthless because they only regurgitate what everyone “serious” knows.

        For several years before the financial crisis, I wrote many things about why something was brewing and explained the assumptions of economic models and why they were wrong. People like him scorned and ridiculed me constantly.

        I was under the impression that when something did happen, they would reconsider their views and at least give me credit.

        Instead, they instantly claimed they knew it was going to happen and had all the verbiage to dazzle and “prove” that they were really ahead of things. The number of people who became overnight experts on CDS was incredible.

        There are interesting qualitative and quantitative studies about this. The people that foresee problems and try to warn others are almost universally shunned, while the people that stick to the consensus but know enough to immediately jump out at the first sign of failure (several people made billions by waiting until the subprime crisis was too bad to avoid and then shorted at the end) are considered geniuses.

        People like these seem more rational and accessible than the “other side” but they are merely empty shells that stand for nothing. I much prefer those that stand and act for something, even if it is antithetical to what I believe, because they are advancing history in one way or another and often there are paths for mutual benefit against the status quo.

      • mikkel

         /  January 28, 2014

        That said, I read some of his stuff and he isn’t that bad. He definitely is on the factual linear side of history in most cases, meaning that he sticks to data and hard truths. I’d gather he’d come around in a few years when it is obvious that the consensus is wrong.

        My major issue is that his site exudes passivity and just-so analyses. For example, he identifies a lot of reasons why peak oil is unlikely to lead to complete catastrophe, as well as swiftly knocking down the unconventional replacements myth. However, a lot of the analysis rests on how society will change to adapt, presented as an axiom of existence.

        I spent years arguing with the peak oilers about why they needn’t be doomers, even as I agreed if nothing changed then things would get quite bad. I was hoping to change their mind so they could work towards that new future (considering they are largely engineers it would be very powerful) but eventually gave up and decided to just focus on people that were already doing it.

        I turned down a theoretically lucrative position to move here because of my concern about peak oil. My friend who was arranging the position said he was concerned about peak oil but had since come to question it and asked whether I really wanted to change my life worrying about it.

        I replied that I wasn’t sure if it was as bad as the doomers said, but I did know that the only way it wouldn’t become that bad is if people like us started working for change. There can only be so many people pontificating on innovation or doom, and I wanted to be someone that worked on the ground.

        That blog reads like it is concerned with being correct, not doing correct. Except probably for the political stuff — like you pointed out — except he doesn’t quite connect all his musings on everything else back to the political potential.

      • mikkel

         /  January 28, 2014

        Also the blog is actually a consortium of military strategists, which makes a lot of sense.

        • Ah. Now that does make sense.

        • And a blog that supports itself by using sock puppets proliferated to other blogs to agitate, generate fake debates, and underhandedly gain attention. So apparently, the merits of the bloggers posts and opinions isn’t enough… *sigh*

          These same clowns tried the same tactics about a year and a half ago. Had to consult my notes. But, yeah, they were there.

          (due to these facts, some posts in this discussion were removed)

          I won’t miss them or their nonsense.

    • He’s trying to post on this blog page. Not at all interested in getting into some long-drawn debate over what appears to me to be a misanalysis of the science or what also appears to be a back-handed attempt to self-promote by goading me into just such a debate.

      Final statement on this issue:

      Though there has been some discussion and related reports among some scientists about a potential pause in atmospheric warming, it does not represent a consensus as FM asserts. Nor does it bear on overall global warming which shows continued ocean heat content increase (escalating, actually), and continued increase in the rates of ice sheet melt.

      So to have a haitus in global warming, glacial melt would have to stop and ocean heat content increase would also have to stop in conjunction with a cessation of global atmospheric temperature rise. Not one of these things have happened. If one cherry picks the data from 1998 onward, it’s possible to generate a small slowing of the rate of atmospheric increase. But that requires one to deal with the data dishonestly and outside of the context of a larger trend.

      The caution not to interpret current atmospheric warming data as a hiatus by IPCC scientists represents consensus opinion on warming. For a more in depth understand of the lack of hiatus in atmospheric temperature increase, I again refer you to NASA GISS:

  7. Carol

     /  January 27, 2014

    Quick question: Is this cleavage of the polar vortex new to science? Thanks!

    • Arctic oscillation is a typical variation in polar weather that tends to produce less extreme events similar to the one that is ongoing now. What is anomalous is the strength of the current warming and the high degree of loss of temperature contrast from south to north. It is not at all normal for it to be colder in the lower 48 than in Alaska during winter time, for example. In addition, events of this degree of extremity are becoming more common. We saw a similar anomalous flip-flop last year with Greenland very warm during winter and Europe very cold. The inversions are also moving further north.

      In the context of an Arctic that is now warmer than at any time in at least the last 44,000 years these Jet Stream anomalies and temperature extremes are part of a quite extraordinary trend of observed polar amplification.

  8. climatestate

     /  January 27, 2014

    Can somebody point out how reliable the operational plot is for the weather anomaly?

    Robert please have a look here (concerning climate assessments)

    • Occasionally, the anomaly plot produces errors. Nevertheless, errors are typically minor and NOAA is very diligent in making corrections. In general, the data is best or near best of class.

      My only complaint with the anomaly data is that it’s base-line 1985 to 1996 hides a degree of the global warming that has already happened.

  9. Miep

     /  January 28, 2014

    The weather channel predicts a low here in SE NM of sixteen Tuesday night, and a high of 80 Thursday.

    I’ve lived here for sixteen years and lows around sixteen have tended to be as cold as it gets. A high of 80 in late January is weird. And two days later? Very weird.

    • This is pretty simple. The Jet Stream briefly backs up over your area and the extreme hot/cold line flips back and forth over your area. In some cases the hot-cold line is packed very tight with that 64 degree variation crammed within 500 miles or less.

      What this means is a high potential for explosive storms and very extreme weather. Now all you need is a moisture source and that situation turns into an extreme atmospheric bomb. Such conditions are a prime reason why scientists like Francis are very concerned about the amazing Jet Stream anomalies we are starting to see.

  10. Record Warmth in Alaska Contrasts Cold Wave in Eastern U.S.

    • Alaska

      The last half of January has been one of the warmest winter periods in the state’s history with temperatures averaging as much as 40°F above normal on some days in locations in the central and western portions of the state. All time January monthly heat records have so far been established at Nome: 51°F (10.6°C) on January 27 (former record 46°F/7.8°C on January 7, 1942, POR since 1906), Denali Park HQ: 52°F (11.1°C) on January 27 (former record 51°F/10.6°C on January 21, 1961, POR since 1922), Palmer: 58°F (14.4°C) on January 26 (former record 52°F/11.1°C on January 20, 1961, POR since 1949), Homer: 57°F (13.9°C) on January 27 (former record 51°F/10.6°C on January 23, 1961, POR since 1932), Alyseka: 57°F (13.9°C) on January 26 (former record 50°F/10.0°C on January 4, 1995, POR since 1963) Seward: 58°F (14.4°C) on January 27 (former record 55°F/12.8°C on January 7, 2005, POR since 1949), Talkeetna: 47°F (8.3°C) on January 25 (former record 46°F/7.8°C on January 21, 2004, POR since 1949).

      A pool of shallow cool air has prevented monthly temperature records from having been set at some interior locations such as Fairbanks where the high of 45°F (7.2°C) on January 24th was well short of the monthly record of 52°F (11.1°C) set on January 16, 2009.

  11. Aqua/MODIS
    22:00 UTC

    Sediment along the southern coast of Alaska

  12. Record Alaskan Warmth and Rains Trigger Huge Avalanche That Isolates Valdez

    Record warmth and precipitation in Alaska
    As of January 26, 13.83″ of precipitation had fallen in Valdez during the month of January. This is more than 8″ above average for this point in the month, and close to the all-time record for January precipitation of 15.18″, set in 2001 (records go back to 1972.) With more rain on the way Monday and Tuesday, this record could easily fall. Numerous locations in Southeast Alaska have beaten their rainiest January day on record marks.

    Wunderground’s weather historian Christopher C. Burt has much more detail on the record Alaska January warmth in his latest post, Record Warmth in Alaska Contrasts Cold Wave in Eastern U.S. A few highlights:

    – Temperatures of up to 40° above normal occurred across the interior and West Coast of Alaska on Sunday. Bolio Lake Range Complex in Fort Greely, Alaska, located about 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks, hit 60°. This is only 2° short of the all-time state January heat record of 62° set at Petersburg in 1981.

    – At 10pm local time Sunday in Homer, Alaska, the temperature was 54°. This was warmer than any location in the contiguous U.S., except for Southern Florida and Southern California. The 55° high in Homer on Sunday broke their all-time monthly record by 4°.

    – All-time January heat records have been set in 2014 in Nome, Denali Park, Palmer, Homer, Alyseka, Seward, and Talkeetna.

  13. Now for the old days , and my music video –

    • Hahaha! Fantastic! Can always count on you to lighten the mood.

      • Miep

         /  January 28, 2014

        I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Taos Blue codpiece before.

        Also, “I wasn’t the best, but I could walk in the room” is a nifty quote.

  14. The 30 day anomaly for Longyearbyen, Svalbard is now at +10.1 C. That is truly mindgobbling! Also at the smaller island, Hopen (situated south-east of Svalbard), the anomaly is lingering Close to + 10 C above normal, while the status at Jan Mayen, situated between Island and Svalbard is having “only” +7 C above normal.

    I notice that seaice the last month have crept closer upon Svalbard, but like last Winter, Sea Ice most likely won’t encircle this Archipelago of Islands this Winter either. On the other hand, a long Cold spring is still able to stir Things up!

    Posted by: Christoffer Ladstein


  15. Colorado Bob

    In fact, on Sunday (January 26) the temperature at around the 10,600’ level (about the 700 mb level) rose to freezing above Fairbanks, the warmest ever measured for any month from November to March (inclusive). The same also occurred at Ketchikan where at the 850 mb level (around 5,000’) the temperature soared to 53.6°F (12°C), a January record for any location anywhere in the state.

    However, in spite of the shallow cool air at the surface, some interior locations have reached record territory. Most incredible is an unofficial report from an automated platform at Boli Lake, south of Delta Junction, which reported 60°F (15.6°C) on January 26. If accurate, this would be just 2°F shy of Alaska’s all-time state monthly record of 62°F (16.7°C) set at Petersburg on January 16, 1981. Of course, Petersburg is on the southeast Alaskan Peninsula where mild Pacific air sometimes intrudes during the winters. Boli Lake is in the heart the Alaskan interior, normally one of the coldest regions in the state during January.

    Extreme January Warmth Elsewhere

    The extreme warmth experienced so far this month in Alaska has also been noted in Canada’s Yukon Territory where Carmacks has averaged 22.5°C (40.5°F) above average for the past 10 days (-12.1°C low 2.2°C high versus a normal of -33.6°C low and -23.8°C high). In Iceland, Reykjavik is so far experiencing it’s 8th warmest January on record with a POR beginning in 1871. Greenland has also been exceptionally warm with the normally frigid Summit Station (at 10,500’) yet to record a -50°C (-45.5°F) reading this month (which is around what the entire monthly daily minimum average should be).

  16. I have a 7 year profile at Newsvine. All of it is a record of the march of science,
    Paper after observation after report. And my comments in between. I did it because Newsvine was cool.

  17. Evey week we have to chase down a dead idea, And throw it on the trash of the past,

  18. “”This winter, we’ve experienced a 20 year cold snap for the US. The Arctic is now experiencing a 44,000 year heat wave” —Robertscribbler
    This really sums it up. Thanks for the article

  19. Tom

     /  January 28, 2014

    Colorado Bob: thanks for sharing some of your many talents with us. Absolutely beautiful leather work shows what a craftsman you are, on top of the prolific amount of information you share here which indicates that you don’t sit still for long without reading or doing something. Cool video.

    Here’s a video of Paul Beckwith (from seemorerocks) explaining climate change:

    Robert – thanks so much for your work, posts and information regarding the steady stream of weird changes going on. This is a great blog. I have one question (that came up in a conversation, and I didn’t know the answer): Australia is undergoing record heat. Can we take that as some kind of indication that we here in the U.S. will have a particularly hot summer this year?

  20. Phil

     /  January 28, 2014

    The record heat in Australia in 2013 and also heat waves earlier in January 2014 are interesting and probably unusual given that ENSO has been in slightly cool to neutral in range. Under the persistent La Nina’s and probably given the diminished sunspot cycle, I think the expectation would be for a decline in average temperatures of 0.2 to 0.3 percent over the last 15 years – this has happened in the past. However, we have got this record heat in a neutral ENSO phase. The BOM (Bureau of Meterology) here are still unsure if an El Nino phase will develop later in 2014 and the PDO index is still in negative territory although the magnitude of the negative numbers has been diminishing. This seems to suggest that the records set in 2013 can be largely associated with global warming.

    On another issue, has the winter heat waves in the Arctic had any noticeable impact on sea ice extent and thickness? Looking at the Cryosphere Today web-site, the extent seemed to take a hit (dip) earlier in January but has been pretty smooth since then. The nrissc navy web-sites 30 day thickness map seems to indicate some reduction in thickness but that might be over the next couple of days assuming the end bit is a weekly forecast ahead (I think?). The speed and drift map also seems to be showing abit of action (a storm?) at the end of the current 30 day cycle. I am not sure how much the sea ice might be susceptable to storm impacts in the Arctic winter when compared with summer but I understand that some cracking had occurred earlier on from a storm.

    • During the La Nina dominant period, heat tends to concentrate moreso in the Western Pacific. So the effect of warming is intensified there.

  21. Phil

     /  January 28, 2014

    I saw on the Arctic New website that Paul Beckwith has another video on Southern Hemisphere Climate Change, linking these trends to developments in the Northern Hemisphere. Interestingly, he links the Australian heat waves to transfers of warmth towards the South Pole that is stopped by the Southern Hemisphere Jet Stream and rebounds onto South Eastern Australia (among other places). South East Australia (South Australia, Victoria and southern/central New South Wales have been particularly affected by heatwaves when compared to Queensland, for example, as shown also in the video. Interesting also to see the noticeable qualitative differences between the jet stream in both hemispheres as well as the possible explanation of why sea ice is growing in Antarctica and how this is linked to the reverse process in the Arctic.

  22. Phil

     /  January 29, 2014

    Just to clarify my views, I am certainly not subscribing to hiatus in warming – in fact the opposite. Given the current ENSO patterns, it is hard to see how the temperature extremes experienced particularly in 2013 in Australia could have emerged without a significant push along from global warming. In the past, ENSO patterns over the last 15 years would have lead to a reduction in average termperatures of between 0.1 to 0.3 degrees C but that has not occurred over the last 15 years with apart from 1998, the top 10 warmest years appearing since 2000 against a backdrop of mainly La Nina or ENSO neutral conditions. To me, this suggests heuristically a stronger relative forcing impact from climate change over the last 15 years when compared with earlier periods with similar ‘natural’ forcing patterns (e.g. mainly ENSO patterns).

    I have not studied any of Beckwith’s technical work in detail so cannot comment on his scientific method and am not trained as a climate scientist or meterologist so would most likely have trouble understanding it fully anyway. However, from his youtube videos I have seen, they look very similar in content to those of Prof Jennifer Francis on arctic amplification, the jetstream and extreme weather events in the Northern Hemisphere.


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