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Seven Inches of Snow Dumped on Northeast as Another Major Arctic Warm-Up is Underway

As an April snowstorm strikes the U.S. Northeast, major global weather stories related to climate change are unfolding in real time. For today, we again find that none of the key climate zones feature below average temperatures even as a ten-day-long Arctic warm spell appears to be on tap.

Very Warm Arctic in Early April

(Another big Arctic warm-up drives cold air southward. The result is snow over the U.S. Northeast even as parts of the Arctic Ocean are experiencing an early thaw. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Warm winds driving northward over eastern Siberia, on the back side of a high pressure ridge, are delivering yet one more big dose of near or above freezing temperatures to this Arctic region. From the Chukchi Sea through the Bering Strait and on into East Siberia, temperatures range from 10 to 22 degrees Celsius above average. The Bering itself has been mostly swept clean of sea ice — with severe record low ice extent readings for this zone during early April.

Throughout winter, the Bering and Chukchi have received wave after wave of much warmer than normal air from the ocean zone to the south. This tendency for warm air propagating northward through the Pacific is one that is often triggered by La Nina — a periodic pattern of Pacific Equatorial surface water cooling that became a dominant feature of 2018 winter weather. However, globally warmer than normal ocean waters and, in particular, much warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the Northeastern Pacific appear to have greatly enhanced the heat influx.

(Much warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the Northeastern Pacific this year have provided a pathway for warm air to invade the Arctic. Meanwhile, La Nina and Polar Amplification generate a combined influence that weakens the Jet Stream and facilitates atmospheric ridges in this zone. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

These warm waters at the middle to northern latitudes have developed a pathway that enhances the northward flow of tropical air masses over the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile La Nina’s Equatorial cooling combines with climate change’s amplified polar warming to slow down the Jet Stream — further enabling this south-to-north heat transfer. As we have seen time and time again, human-forced global warming generated chiefly by fossil fuel burning is developing an atmospheric and oceanic handshake with past understood synoptic trends to produce an out-sized Arctic warming.

Bering Sea Almost Completely Cleared of Ice

This severe warming is plainly visible as open water is driven by outlandish temperatures well north and through the Bering Strait during early April. A time when ocean ice typically extends more than 150 miles south of Ninivak — bridging the water zone from Bristol Bay to the Kamchatka Peninsula.

(The Bering Sea is typically ice-choked during April. And during a normal year all the water zones in the above image would be covered with ice. But this spring, sea ice extent there is at never-before-seen record low levels. Image source: NASA Worldview.)

The impact is quite dramatic. During February, Bering Sea Ice hit 100,000 square kilometers below previous record lows for the Month. These record low extents continued throughout March and into early April when, today, we find that Bering sea ice extent is between 150,000 to 200,000 square kilometers below the previous record lows for the day and about half a million square kilometers below the seasonal average.

Putting this loss into context, half a million square kilometers is a region that splits the difference in size between the land mass area of California and Texas.

According to GFS model runs, the present Bering-East Siberia warm spell should last for another 2-3 days even as larger Arctic warming in the range of 2.4 to 3.2 degrees Celsius above average for the entire 66 North Latitude zone and on poleward is expected to continue through the ten day horizon. These warmer than normal temperatures should retard typical seasonal sea ice thickening in the far northern regions even as edge ice zones like those in the Bering, Baffin Bay, and the Sea of Okhotsk experience early spring melt and erosion.

New England Spring Snow

As warm air invades the Arctic — a feature that has become more and more prevalent as the globe itself has heated up — it tends to drive cold air southward over the North American, Asian, and European Continents. In this case, the warm air invasion coming from the Siberian side is displacing Arctic air over North America. As a result, and much to the delight of myth-enraptured climate change deniers everywhere, we have been treated to a rare, if not unheard of, spring April snowstorm in New England.

(Increasingly, there have been indications that polar warming related to global warming is influencing storm tracks and ridge and trough patterns in the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream. The result is a stronger influence on Mid-Latitude Northern Hemisphere weather. Image source: Arctic Change and Possible Influence on Mid-Latitude Climate and Weather.)

According to local weather reports, as much as 7 inches of snow were dumped in intense 2-inch-per-hour bursts over parts of New England last night as a brief but intense storm roared through the region. The cold air, driven south by the recent warm polar air invasion, encountered high atmospheric moisture levels bleeding off a much warmer than normal Gulf Stream lurking just off-shore. The result, as has been the case during recent intense rain and snowstorms, was enhanced convection. This greater atmospheric uplift, in turn, produced an out-sized spring precipitation event. With below freezing temperatures driven far to the south by warm air entering the Arctic, the Northeast saw its first significant April snow event since 1982.

An April 6th to 7th Snowstorm for the U.S. South on the Way?

Further fodder for the climate change denial community supported by the anti-information campaigns of Fox News and others, may emerge by next weekend as another big push of cold air could help to develop a snow and ice storm stretching from Oklahoma through the Carolinas. Cold air driven out of the Arctic and southward over the Eastern and Central U.S. could result in 10 to 18 degree Celsius below average temperatures in that region. Moisture bleeding off the much warmer than normal Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean could be injected into this cold trough as a related storm develops. The result is a potentially unusual snow and ice storm. And an intense event off this kind, should it develop, would be a very odd weather event during U.S. spring-time.

(Another odd spring U.S. Snowstorm may be on the way for April 6th and 7th according to GFS model forecasts. Image source: Tropical Tidbits.)

Meanwhile, the U.S. tendency in the model forecasts is for warmer than normal temperatures in the West, cooler than normal temperatures in the East through the middle of April. It’s worth noting that the forecast also shows highly variable temperatures with strong swings between warm and cold throughout this period for most U.S. regions. As a result, as the Arctic remains much warmer than normal over the next ten days, the U.S. is likely to experience periods of both extreme warmth and extreme cold relative to climatological averages for this time of year.

Final Points — Intense U.S. Spring Snowfall Events a Likely Upshot of Polar Warming

Putting all these dynamics into context, we can sum up by making the following statements:

  1. April snow and even April blizzards are not unheard of for the U.S. East. That said, the recent events are odd and outside the context of regular U.S. weather patterns — particularly when it comes to precipitation intensity.
  2. Arctic warming and loss of regional sea ice, such as that seen in the Bering, is historically unprecedented during 2018. This is a continuation of an observed trend of polar amplification and severe warming seen during recent years.
  3. No major global climate zones show below normal temperatures on April 2, 2018. That said, a high variance in middle latitude northern hemisphere temperatures presently exists — with regions of intense cool and intense warmth interspersed.
  4. Snowstorms in the U.S. Northeast during April do not disprove global warming or a related shift to increasing climate extremes. In fact, they appear to be an aspect of it.
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25 Comments

  1. Vice Regent

     /  April 2, 2018

    Dear RobS,

    Thanks for getting the word out and shedding light on the connection between arctic warming and mid-latitude heights/cyclones. We can no longer afford to be complacent.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. Erik Frederiksen

     /  April 2, 2018

    And on the other side of the world, the Guardian reported today that “Underwater melting of Antarctic ice far greater than thought, study finds”

    From that article: “The research by the UK Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at the University of Leeds suggests climate change is affecting the Antarctic more than previously believed and is likely to prompt global projections of sea-level rise to be revised upward.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/02/underwater-melting-of-antarctic-ice-far-greater-than-thought-study-finds

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • How heat transfers through the ocean zones is a huge part of the global warming for this Century. For my own part, I’m pretty concerned about Antarctica in general.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      • Erik Frederiksen

         /  April 2, 2018

        Indeed. Rignot mentioned that it is not just the warming of the ocean around Antarctica which is problematic, but already warm water (by Antarctic standards) is being driven into contact to Antarctic ice shelves by increasing westerlies due to the increasing horizontal temperature gradient caused by the rest of the world warming faster than Antarctica.

        Like

        Reply
        • Thanks Erik. I’m working on my own summary for this new research. Antarctica is looking rather scary 😦

          Like

        • Abel Adamski

           /  April 3, 2018

          I read some years ago that the circumpolar air current around Antarctica had been speeding up – was once known as the Roaring Forties – now the Roaring Fifties.
          That has to have an effect, whilst strengthening the isolation factor to warm moist air incursion over the ice sheets it also increases the rate of heat transfer to the undersea level ice fronts

          Like

        • Erik Frederiksen

           /  April 3, 2018

          Actually, the roaring forties and roaring fifties refer to latitudes. In the forties and fifties south latitude the Southern Ocean spans the globe uninterrupted by land masses and the dominant feature of the surface ocean there have been powerful westerly winds driving large waves.

          I read accounts of Sailors experiencing this rounding Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope in the 19th and 20th Centuries in horrific storms and these winds have increased 30 percent since the 80s.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Spike

       /  April 3, 2018

      Saw this paper on Antarctica in the Miocene linked to on Twitter today. 30-80% of Antarctic ic may have melted out. http://www.pnas.org/content/113/13/3459

      Like

      Reply
    • The Beeb as a story, too: Antarctica ‘gives ground to the ocean’.

      The new data-set confirms other observations that show the mighty Pine Island Glacier, one of the biggest and fast-flowing glaciers on Earth, and whose grounding line has been in retreat since the 1940s, appears now to have stabilised somewhat.

      […]

      Its next-door neighbour, Thwaites Glacier, on the other hand, is seeing an acceleration in the reversal of its grounding line – from 340m/yr to 420m/yr.

      Like

      Reply
  3. Erik Frederiksen

     /  April 2, 2018

    From your article: “Further fodder for the climate change denial community supported by the anti-information campaigns of Fox News and others, may emerge by next weekend as another big push of cold air could help to develop a snow and ice storm stretching from Oklahoma through the Carolinas.”

    A good counter to this is, More extreme weather eh?

    Like

    Reply
    • In my opinion, the best counter is to continue provide context. To show how extreme temperature swings are more likely when the pole warms up during fall, winter, and spring. This will ultimately transition to summer for the North Atlantic during periods when Greenland melt becomes more involved.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
      • Erik Frederiksen

         /  April 3, 2018

        Another one is to talk about the loss of ice and the jet stream’s influence in bleeding heat north and cold south.

        Like

        Reply
  4. Bob

     /  April 3, 2018

    From Inside Climate Change a lengthy article on Antarctic and the increasing base melting of the glaciers. Sea level increases could be many times what has been predicted.
    https://insideclimatenews.org/news/02042018/antarctica-ice-sheet-shelf-glaciers-grounding-line-receding-worst-case-sea-level-rise-risk

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    • Abel Adamski

       /  April 3, 2018

      The thing with basal melt under a supported glacier is that initial at least until it collapses, the melted ice displaces less water volume than the frozen ice, so the SLR impact is an initial negative

      Like

      Reply
      • kassy

         /  April 3, 2018

        But that is marginal:

        “The research found that from 2010 through 2016, about 80 square miles (200 square km) per year of ice is being lifted off of the seafloor and going afloat as grounding lines retreat. That’s about four times the size of Manhattan every year.”

        When the ice loses it’s grounding the glacier run off will speed up so simply put more ice flows off the land.

        “The enormous Thwaites glacier – which has the potential to unlock several meters of sea-level rise if it retreats entirely into the center of West Antarctica – was found to be retreating at 300 to 400 meters per year along a 25-mile central section of the glacier.

        The study also found that Thwaites’s retreat had increased between 1996 and 2011.

        “Imagine other coastlines changing at an equal speed, that’s really massive,” Konrad said of what’s happening to Thwaites.

        Science agencies in the United States and Britain are mobilizing an urgent mission to study Thwaites up close, because of the belief among scientists that it could be the one glacier with the greatest potential to remake world coastlines in coming decades and centuries.

        “We focus especially on Thwaites because sufficiently large retreat there could evacuate the entire central region of the West Antarctic ice sheet, perhaps raising global average sea level more than 3 metres through that one outlet,” Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Penn State University, said in an emailed comment on the study. ”

        Rather scary indeed.

        quotes from
        https://www.sciencealert.com/10-percent-of-antarctica-s-coastal-glaciers-are-retreating-alarming-scientists

        Like

        Reply
    • Erik Frederiksen

       /  April 3, 2018

      From the UMASS ice sheet modeler Rob DeConto regarding the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, linked to below.

      “The key is it’s retreating on bedrock that, as Jonathan noted in many places, is sloping down into the continent toward the continent, not down toward the ocean. It’s on what we call a reverse sloped bed, so the grounding line has just gotten thicker, which means it turns out that we can actually start to pump more ice through the grounding line.

      And it’s really interesting, the amount of ice that can flow through the grounding line is related to how thick the grounding line is, that’s pretty intuitive, but it’s an exponential relationship.

      So if the grounding line gets just a little thicker, as it starts to retreat, you start pumping an exponentially greater amount of ice out of the ice sheet, in that as you could see will just lead to a runaway retreat where once that grounding line starts to come back onto that reverse slope bed the system just takes off.”

      Like

      Reply
  5. Abel Adamski

     /  April 3, 2018

    An advisory from one of my investment advisory services.
    Changes the picture on oil and gas prices markedly and highlights a perspective not commonly known, i.e the Oil and Gas industry has been in the red over $280Billion over the last 10 Years. compare to Tesla’s economics

    Here’s the story…

    Much has been written about the huge increase in oil and gas production from the shale basins in the US, especially in Texas.
    It’s been a massive boom for the country, and has kept oil and natural gas prices very low. You know this, I’m sure.

    What’s less discussed is that many of these shale companies are not profitable.

    For years, they’ve been consuming huge amounts of capital to produce this oil and gas. But their actual investors haven’t seen much benefit from it.

    In December, the Wall Street Journal cited a report that said US energy companies had spent US$280 BILLION more than they generated from operations over a 10-year period.

    They made up for this massive deficit originally by raising money in the equity market. When investors got fed up with the poor profitability of these companies, the shale operators started raising money in the bond market.

    One quirk of this business is that the management running these companies often has incentives to increase production rather than make money.
    Big investors in these firms spent 2017 pressing for the shale companies to change this.
    If the shale companies spend less on rigs and drilling, they can begin to pay down their debt and start paying dividends or undertaking stock buybacks.

    This is very important to watch…

    If shale companies produce less oil over the next 12 months than the US government forecasts, it could put upward pressure on the price of oil.

    Of course, there’s no guarantee here that shale companies will honour this idea of prioritising profits over production.

    Some may have no choice to bring in whatever cash they can — to pay debt for example — or because of the leases they’re operating under.

    But it’s no given that US shale will produce oil at the rate many firms and forecasters are assuming will keep oil around the US$50–60 mark, as is the case now.

    We also have very good demand numbers coming in…

    Pressures pressures on the ICE vehicles and Fossil Fuel energy costs

    P.S Robert, thanks for catching the posts on the previous article, still a couple left – Pruitt and his potentially terminal woes and China cloud seeding

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Shawn Redmond

       /  April 3, 2018

      To address the twin threats of climate change and ocean acidification, nearly every nation has promised to reduce fossil fuel burning.

      But so far, humanity keeps burning ever more. Last year we did it again, burning an all-time record amount.

      That’s according to data compiled from the latest “BP Statistical Review of World Energy.” This annual report is one of the most widely used and referenced around the world. It’s big and comprehensive with fifty pages, thirty-three spreadsheets and forty charts. The report highlights most of the important trends in global energy. Most. But one critical trend was nowhere to be found….

      Conspicuously absent was the basic statistic on fossil fuels that I, as a climate reporter, was looking for: how much fuel is the world burning each year? Such a simple question, and the answer tells one of the most important stories in the world: are we finally turning the corner on our fossil fuel dependency?

      To find that missing story, I needed to download and combine multiple BP data sheets, do the math, and then build my own charts to reveal the trends. Here (drumroll, please) are the “missing charts” and what they have to say to us…

      https://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/07/13/analysis/these-missing-charts-may-change-way-you-think-about-fossil-fuel-addiction

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  6. Abel Adamski

     /  April 3, 2018

    And one that is OT but providing hope (much as that word has connotations)
    Who knows what the future holds as more and more special children are being born

    Nikolai Tesla was a once in a Century Genius who very possibly had the answers we need, but all that was suppressed/lost/stolen.

    However we now have another super genius.

    He has to his distinction of being the youngest person to earn Microsoft Office Specialist 2010 certification in 2015 at age five.

    It thus beggars belief and stuns the imagination that a young child prodigy, an eight-year-old wonderkid in Pakistan has taken upon himself the responsibility to create awareness of the most alarming challenge of global warming. Confronting the planet.

    Zidane Hamid a genius born in Rawalpindi on January, 3, 2010, is studying arts, science, literature, computer technology, geography, sports and other subjects at home. At the mere age of three-and-a-half he started recording his video lectures and delivering lectures at schools, colleges, universities and events related to different subjects.

    This super genius, multi-talented young hero is a real pride of the nation who has accumulated many sobriquets at such a tender age such as, a source of inspiration, the little professor, miracle baby, the chemistry cockroach, the youngest speaker and future scientist

    Apart from academics, he loves playing cricket, football, volleyball and boxing. He likes reading and also enthusiastic about travelling and photography.

    Zidane is a passionate learner and is always eager to discover and unwrap the logic behind everything he gets to know. He is a multilingual and can speak in English, Urdu, Hindko, to some extent Arabic, Persian, Spanish and Japanese.

    The young hero wants to be a peacemaker and productive Muslim. He believes the sole purpose of creation is to bring a positive change around and this is what he aims to be.

    https://tribune.com.pk/story/1675056/1-young-prodigy-sets-confront-global-warming/

    Hope to God they don’t get to him

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
  7. wharf rat

     /  April 3, 2018

    EXCLUSIVE: Newly uncovered video shows Mobil CEO admitting climate change connection

    As oil companies face numerous climate lawsuits, archival footage contains “significant” statement, experts say.
    https://thinkprogress.org/video-mobil-oil-executive-admitting-climate-connection-270b468a2c44/

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  8. Abel Adamski

     /  April 3, 2018

    https://www.tesla.com/en_AU/blog/update-last-week%E2%80%99s-accident?redirect=no

    An Update on Last Week’s Accident
    The Tesla Team 30 March, 2018

    Since posting our first update, we have been working as quickly as possible to establish the facts of last week’s accident. Our hearts are with the family and friends who have been affected by this tragedy.

    The safety of our customers is our top priority, which is why we are working closely with investigators to understand what happened, and what we can do to prevent this from happening in the future. After the logs from the computer inside the vehicle were recovered, we have more information about what may have happened.

    In the moments before the collision, which occurred at 9:27 a.m. on Friday, March 23rd, Autopilot was engaged with the adaptive cruise control follow-distance set to minimum. The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision. The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken.

    The reason this crash was so severe is because the crash attenuator, a highway safety barrier which is designed to reduce the impact into a concrete lane divider, had been crushed in a prior accident without being replaced. We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash.

    Over a year ago, our first iteration of Autopilot was found by the U.S. government to reduce crash rates by as much as 40%. Internal data confirms that recent updates to Autopilot have improved system reliability.

    In the US, there is one automotive fatality every 86 million miles across all vehicles from all manufacturers. For Tesla, there is one fatality, including known pedestrian fatalities, every 320 million miles in vehicles equipped with Autopilot hardware. If you are driving a Tesla equipped with Autopilot hardware, you are 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident.

    Tesla Autopilot does not prevent all accidents – such a standard would be impossible – but it makes them much less likely to occur. It unequivocally makes the world safer for the vehicle occupants, pedestrians and cyclists.

    My POV is what other factors are involved, the reason why the accident was so bad was that it occurred at a location where there had recently been a major accident crushing the crash attenuator (barrier)
    Is there a common factor as to why 2 accidents reasonably close together in precisely the same location on a high speed freeway

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  9. Ronald

     /  April 3, 2018

    Two rather gloomy reports in relation to all this, just out:
    https://www.bcg.com/publications/2018/why-coal-will-keep-burning.aspx
    Asia will probably add about twice Europe’s (present) annual coal consumption between now and 2013.
    http://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0127-8
    Half a degree C can make the difference between Arctic ice-free summer or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • A couple responses here:

      1. Renewable energy systems have consistently outperformed forecasts. In the past, China was seen as a large source of new coal emissions. Now the consensus forecast has shifted toward an early plateau. And indications are that we are on or near a new plateau now.
      2. Forecasts for future coal growth and/or plateau rely on India. However, its India and other developing regions in Asia where renewables are most cost-competitive with coal. We already have instances where legacy coal plants in India can’t compete with renewables and are being shut down on the basis of economics alone. Again, another instance that is happening sooner than forecast.
      3. Coal plant shutdowns in the West is now an established trend.
      4. The impacts of climate change are beginning to weigh heavily on public perception — generating a major public push against new fossil fuel driven operations.

      With regards to the Arctic:

      1. We are probably going to experience an ice-free summer there in the not too distant future, IMO.
      2. The impacts that are presently locking RE climate change look like they will be harmful.
      3. The global disruption is likely to be bad. However, there are multiple potentials for civilization survival along a rapid emissions reduction pathway.
      4. In other words:
      A: The action to reduce harmful emissions produces multiple positive effects and adaptation opportunities.
      B: But this fact is not mutually exclusive to the fact that some severely harmful and potentially catastrophic impacts will still develop due to legacy fossil fuel emissions that have already produced a dangerously high energy imbalance in the Earth’s atmosphere.
      C: The fact that some harmful outcomes are locking in should not be seen as either inevitable failure or inevitable doom to human civilization. It should instead be viewed as a reality that we must deal with by first reducing damage through emissions drawdowns to zero and net negative and then through policies that encourage the global community to work together to help the victims. This includes animal species, forests, coral reefs and other life forms and helpful ecologies as well as human beings.
      D: Such actions are not only moral and helpful, they are basic common sense. Over-focus on doom or despair is a form of harmful paralysis that we must turn away from. Action, particularly at the policy level, needs to be continuously escalated and improved.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  10. kassy

     /  April 3, 2018

    U.S. Carmakers May Regret What They Wished for on Pollution Rules

    The titans of Detroit’s auto industry met with President Donald Trump four days after he took office and warned that jobs could be lost if the emission limits enacted by his predecessor weren’t made more flexible.

    On Monday, the Trump administration responded by agreeing to revise the Obama administration standards — but in a way that may backfire on the automakers.

    In announcing the decision, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt included a tacit threat that the federal government might no longer go along with California’s smog-fighting policies. That could lead to pollution rules that vary state-by-state, greatly complicating life for the people making the cars.

    “Automakers will get the flexibility they wished for, but at what cost?” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis at the car shopping website Edmunds. “The unfortunate reality is that this decision comes with a logistical nightmare in the short term.”

    and more on:
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-03/u-s-carmakers-may-regret-what-they-wished-for-on-pollution-rule

    Like

    Reply

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