The troubled and tempestuous North Atlantic. It’s a place where the most ominous kinds of atmospheric bombs just keep going off. From the Cumbria floods — the worst seen since at least the Middle Ages — to the 300-year-old bridge wrecking Frank, to above-freezing temperatures at the North Pole during Winter, weather features throughout this region have increasingly taken on the ugly markings of systems twisted by the hand of human-forced warming.
One issue that’s been raised is what, if any, influence El Nino might have had on this most oddly extreme North Atlantic weather? There, such anomalous storms are more than likely the off-shoots of three new features related to climate change. One is a Stefan Ramhstorf-identified cool pool of water just south of Greenland. A freakish region of colder than normal sea surfaces that is, all-too-likely, the result of increased glacial melt outflows from a heat-harrowed Greenland. A second climate change related feature is a zone of very hot water along the Gulf Stream off the US East Coast. This odd warmth is likely due to a kind of Gulf Stream train wreck caused by the blocking lid of fresh water Greenland melt has thrown over that current’s driving circulation. So as the zone south of Greenland cools, the area just off the Eastern Seaboard heats up. A third and final feature is a polar warming related heating of the Barents sea surface along with a related massacre of sea ice in that previously frozen region.
These three features have radically altered the heat and moisture exchange patterns of the North Atlantic and are all too likely the primary factors involved in the crazy increase in extreme weather we’ve seen there during 2013, 2014, and 2015.
(Teleconnection between El Nino and the three freak weather patterns in the North Atlantic? River of moisture running up from the El Nino heat bleed in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific all the way to a storm forming in the North Atlantic cool pool just south of Greenland on January 1 of 2016. Note the above image is a graphical measure of total precipitable water content. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)
But one factor that has been somewhat murky is what, if any, influence a near record or record El Nino may be having on the weather bombs going off over this climate change hotspot? At issue is the fact that teleconnections — or atmospheric energy and moisture exchange — between El Nino and the North Atlantic are somewhat difficult to tease out in the model essays and observational data.
However, this year, there does appear to be quite a lot of heat and moisture issuing from the monster El Nino raging in the Equatorial Pacific. For one, the record rains over South Carolina and the Central United States this year are certainly tied to an extremely heavy flood of moisture coming from this major atmospheric and ocean event. The moisture bleed has originated from the Eastern Pacific, lofted over Mexico and Central America to saturate airs over the Gulf States, the Central and Eastern US.
Recent observational data, in addition, also hints that this extraordinary moisture flow may well be linking up with another major moisture bleed off of sea surfaces in the range of 5-7 degrees Celsius above average off the US East Coast before feeding directly into the storm bombification zone over the North Atlantic cool pool.
(River of moisture sets up between Equatorial Pacific and North Atlantic on January 1 of 2016. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)
It’s initial observational evidence that may well be the answer to a question we’ve been asking in the forum here since summer time — could such a teleconnection set up between these two ocean surface temperature anomaly features? In other words, could we be seeing a link up between El Nino and features that are all-too likely related to climate change resulting in some extraordinarily severe weather? Well, on January 1, as identified by the cracker-jack spotting of Andy in San Diego, the atmosphere appeared to present a very strong tell-tale of just such a link up between moisture flows.
In the above NASA MODIS satellite shot we find what appears to be an atmospheric river of moisture running along a cloud pattern issuing from the Eastern Equatorial Pacific, across Mexico and the Southern US, out over the raging hot waters off the US East Coast and finally terminating in the North Atlantic cool pool zone east of Newfoundland and just south of Greenland.
If this is indeed what’s happening, then what we’re seeing is El Nino enhancing an already extremely intense North Atlantic storm generation pattern that is all-too-likely related to climate change. An El Nino + Climate Change teleconnection between the Pacific Equator, the North Atlantic, and, earlier this week, the North Pole that’s about just as unprecedented as all the never-before-seen weather we experienced during 2015. Something that could well turn weather forecasting as we know it on its ear.
In any case, something to look for in the post event reports on this, very disruptive, El Nino and possibly related North Atlantic extreme weather.
Hat Tip to Andy in San Diego (fantastic spotting!)