Giant Gravity Waves Smashed Key Atmospheric Clock During Winter of 2016 — Possible Climate Change Link

Two [climate change] effects [of Arctic warming] are identified … : 1) weakened zonal winds, and 2) increased [Rossby] wave amplitude. These effects are particularly evident in autumn and winter consistent with sea-ice loss… Slower progression of upper-level waves would cause associated weather patterns in mid-latitudes to be more persistent, which may lead to an increased probability of extreme weather events — Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes, Dr. Jennifer Francis and Dr. Stephen Vavrus, Geophysical Research Letters (emphasis added)

The recent disruption in the quasi-biennial oscillation was not predicted, not even one month ahead. — Dr. Scott Osprey

This unexpected disruption to the climate system switches the cycling of the quasi-biennial oscillation forever. — Professor Adam Scaife

scientists believe that the quasi-biennial oscillation could become more susceptible to similar disruptions as the climate warms. — Physics.org (emphasis added)

jet-stream-crossing-equator-on-february-18-of-2016

(During February of 2016, high-amplitude Jet Stream waves or gravity waves interfered with the upper-level Equatorial Winds. This disruption was so significant that it caused a seasonal upper-level wind pattern near the Equator to change direction, a shift that was unprecedented in modern observation. Note how the upper-level wind flow frequently intersects with and even appears to cross the Equator at some points. Image source: Earth Nullschool global 250 hPa capture for February 18, 2016.)

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I’ve said it before, and I’m going to say it again — loss of predictable seasons, or seasonality, due to human-forced climate change is very big deal. And regardless of how all the scientific details specifically pan out, there are now observed changes to Northern Hemisphere winter, possibly due to human-forced warming, that are apparently starting to undermine its traditional seasonal climate behaviors. As a result, weather patterns appear to be shifting toward greater extremes and lower levels of predictability.

QBO — One of Our Most Predictable Atmospheric Clocks…

For decades now, scientists have been observing a kind of atmospheric clock tick-tocking high above the Equator. Up in the stratosphere, 10 to 13 kilometers above the Earth, winds tend to flow either east to west or west to east. These air flows change direction about every 28 to 29 months. This feature, called the quasi-biennial oscillation or QBO, has never significantly varied. It has always flowed in one direction for a predictable period of time and then switched to flow in the other direction.

Winds flowing at this level of the atmosphere over the Equator have a far-reaching effect, particularly on the winter climate of northern Europe. There, westerly high-level Equatorial winds are known to bring warmer, wetter winters. Easterlies in the stratosphere over the Equator are known to bring cooler, drier winters. The key to remember is that the QBO has always been both amazingly predictable itself, and had equally predictable climate effects. As a result, meteorological observation of the QBO natural-variability pattern enabled forecasters to get an idea of what weather trend to expect for winter — not just during a single year, but also over a longer time horizon.

…and Climate Change May Now Be in the Process of Breaking It

What happens if the QBO becomes less predictable due to influences such as human-forced polar warming? What happens if the big meanders in the Jet Stream produced by this warming dig down all the way to the Equator during Northern Hemisphere winters and start to shove at the upper-level Equatorial wind field, causing the QBO to switch? If that happens, then a major aspect of Northern Hemisphere winter seasonal variability will have been fundamentally altered by climate change. Winter would become less like it is now and more like some strange, difficult-to-predict, climate-change-morphed hybrid of a thing.

Over the past decade, scientists like Dr. Jennifer Francis have observed strange changes to the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream. In winter, the North Pole has tended to exhibit extreme relative warming versus the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. This warming has created less difference in temperature from north to south during this season. As a result, it appears that the Jet Stream has slowed and is generating very large atmospheric waves, known as gravity waves or Rossby waves. At times, these waves have linked upper-level air flows between the Tropics and the North Pole.

(For years now, Dr. Jennifer Francis has warned that polar amplification could lead to some weird and extreme weather, especially during winter. However, no one initially predicted that the large Jet Stream waves apparently resulting from polar warming would completely disrupt the upper-level Equatorial winds as appears to have happened last February.)

Such strong polar warming during winter is called polar amplification, an effect produced by climate change. Polar amplification happens because greenhouse gasses resulting from fossil-fuel burning (like carbon dioxide and methane) preferentially trap heat during times of darkness. During December through March, large sections of the North Pole are blanketed in the dim of Polar Night. During this time the heat-trapping effects of these gasses really go to work. Additionally, heat from the ocean is transferred through the thinning veil of sea ice over the Arctic Ocean even as local carbon stores add to the overburden of the heat-trapping gasses already in place. The net effect is a much warmer-than-normal Arctic during winter. This warming appears to be doing a serious number on the Jet Stream and, apparently, even Equatorial atmospheric circulation.

Unprecedented QBO Switch in February 2016

During the most recent winter, scientists observed these high-amplitude Jet Stream waves reaching all the way into the Equatorial upper-level wind field with enough oomph to switch an east-west wind pattern to west-east. This switch was entirely unpredicted and unprecedented. No one expected it and it has never before been observed.

The weather pattern for a big swath of Europe was, as a result, flipped from the expected cool and dry to warm and wet. If you had told any atmospheric scientist that such a set of changes would happen, they might have categorically dismissed these claims. But now, some scientists are starting to look at the possibility that the recent QBO flip was due to a climate warming-related influence.

geographical-pattern-of-surface-warming

(Geographic pattern of surface warming as provided by the IPCC. Uneven relative warming of the surface of the Earth may result in some unexpected changes to larger atmospheric circulation patterns. Scientists now indicate that future flips in Equatorial wind patterns, like the big switch that occurred this past winter, may be driven by such atmospheric warming. Image source: IPCC.)

There is a possibility that the recent flip was related to large atmospheric waves which are potentially a result of polar amplification. These waves appear to have impacted the upper-level Equatorial winds, and so are not necessarily related to natural climate variability.

To initiate such a big atmospheric change requires a great deal of force. The equatorial wind field and atmospheric mass is generally the heaviest, is typically the region with the greatest atmospheric inertia. Having an outside influence, like polar warming and associated gravity waves, generating a flip in its flow is about the meteorological equivalent to rivers running up hill. Apparently, due to climate change, atmospheric ‘rivers’ in the Jet Stream may now be capable of doing just that, and that’s pretty disturbing.

Links/Statements/Hat tips:

Scientific hat tip to Dr. Jennifer Francis

Scientific hat tip to Dr. Scott Osprey

Scientific hat tip to Professor Adam Scaife

Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes

Unprecedented atmospheric behavior disrupts one of Earth’s most regular climate cycles

An unexpected disruption of the atmospheric quasi-biennial oscillation

Earth Nullschool

Note: Paul Beckwith again appears to be using this issue as a means self-promotion — bragging about ‘vindication’ and his video ‘that went viral.’ First, this issue is a matter of concern (not petty personal score-keeping). And it is probably one that remains uncertain given that the MET study is the first to touch on it in the peer reviewed science. So any definite claims at this point are both unwarranted and premature. Caution and humility should be the watch-words here. Not active grasping for credit or media attention. Further, I did not work with Paul Beckwith on his first ‘viral’ video — which was an independent response to my initial gravity waves article here. So responsible sources will not conflate my work with that of Paul’s even though he appears to agree with my (admittedly evolving) analysis in some (but not all) instances. For my part, this work is an attempt to open the issue. Not to close it or to support someone attempting to claim credit of first discovery.

Finally, I absolutely respect and admire the work and opinions of scientists like Gavin Schmidt, Stefan Rahmstorf, Jennifer Francis, the IPCC, the MET Office and others who have helped to build a powerful and compelling consensus on climate change as a critical issue for the 21st Century. Sometimes the process of threat identification will highlight instances that are outside of that consensus currently. And such identifications will, at times, result in strong reactions. I understand that this is part of the process and even if views differ, I will endeavor to read, and where I am able, incorporate them into my ongoing study here.

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Fahrenheit 85.9 Near Arctic Ocean Shores — Extreme Heatwave Settles in Over North-Central Siberia, Canada’s Northern Tier

70.8 North, 69.2 East. It’s the Lat, Long coordinate location of a section of the Yamal Peninsula in Siberian Russia. A typically chilly region of frozen but now thawing ground more than 4 degrees of Latitude north of the Arctic Circle. A place that saw the appearance of odd, disturbing (and now controversial) methane blowholes pockmarking the melting permafrost during 2014. Today, the high temperature in a land now being forced to rapidly warm by human-caused climate change spiked to a tropical 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.4 C) at 0800 UTC. Tomorrow, temperatures are expected to again rise to 80 F (26.5 C). And in the same location on Thursday, the mercury is forecast to strike close to 86 F (30 C).

Across the Arctic Ocean at Latitude 71.4 North and Longitude 111.7 West, Canada’s Victoria Island is today also seeing temperatures spike to near 80 F (26.8 C). It’s a place encircled by sounds of wet crackling and fluid sighs. The mournful songs of melting sea ice. A sad threnody for the end of a much more stable and hospitable climate age. And there, and even further north to Banks Island, readings are expected to range from 80 to 82 F (26.7 to 27.7 C) on Wednesday and into Thursday.

GFS Five Day Average

(Extreme heat wave predicted to build over the Arctic during the next five days as indicated by daily maximum temperatures forecast for the next five days shown above. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

The heatwave in Northern Siberia comes on the back of new record high temperatures of 93 F (33.8 C) being reached in Buryatia on July 1 amidst record thunderstorm-induced downpours. The heat has since built northward along an extended ridge stretching over Central Asia and has now compromised a large section of the Arctic Circle zone.

On the Canadian side, the odd warmth comes in the form of a weird Northern heat island. The heat near the Canadian Archipelago is surrounded by cooler regions north, south, east and west. The result of a heat dome high pressure ridge building in over this far Northern region during the coming week.

Weather monitors like the Global Forecast System model show that both of these regions are in for some very severe Arctic heat over the next five days. High temperatures in the range of 80 to 86 F (26 to 30 C) are about 27 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit above average (15 to 20 C).  Temperatures that will basically match those in Central America (8.3 N, 77.9 W) during the same time period. In other words, for these days and these regions, Arctic temperatures will roughly match tropical Equatorial temperatures.

Conditions in Context — 408 ppm CO2, 490 ppm CO2e is Forcing the Arctic to Warm Faster Than Lower Latitudes

This most recent Arctic heatwave occurs in a climate context that, taking into account for 408 ppm CO2 alone will likely result in 1-2 C of additional global warming (on top of current approximate 1 C warming since 1880s) over the long term. Meanwhile, total CO2e (including methane and other greenhouse gasses) measures of about 490 ppm imply 1.5 to 3 C of additional warming long term (on top of 1 C current) even if the present total greenhouse gas forcing is only maintained (not added to by human beings or the Earth System).

These are global averages. But all that extra heat forcing is causing the world to warm unevenly. As of 2009, the Arctic was warming up at a pace more than two times faster than the rest of the globe. And in the 40 year period from 1971 through 2011 NASA found that the Arctic had warmed about 3.55 degrees Fahrenheit while the rest of the world had warmed by 1.44 F. But that was before the big global heat spike during 2015 and 2016 further disproportionately heated the Arctic — pushing it into new record hot temperature ranges. In the end, it appears that the Arctic will eventually warm by about 2.5 to 3 C for every 1 C of overall global temperature rise. And the extreme heat we are seeing now in the Arctic is just a larger part of the geologically rapid warming trend now being driven primarily by human fossil fuel emissions.

Arctic Warming Faster Than Rest of World 2

(NASA graphic shows Arctic warming at a faster rate than the rest of the world. The capture is for 2000 through 2009 vs the NASA 1951 through 1980 20th Century baseline. Read article here at NASA’s Earth Observatory.)

Impacts like loss of sea ice’s cooling albedo effect (reflectivity), loss of land albedo due to greening and loss of snow cover, and unlocking of local carbon stores due to rising heat, expanding fires, and changes in weather all contribute to this more rapid rate of Northern Hemisphere Polar warming. In addition, warming oceans, northward moving climate zones, and warm wind influx events generated by weaknesses in the Polar Jet Stream preferentially transport heat toward the Arctic (especially during Winter). These various forcings generate an overall greater degree of warming for the Arctic Ocean region during Winter all while Summer sees extraordinary heat racing to the Continental edges North of the Arctic Circle.

The only effective way to slake this warming is to both halt human greenhouse gas emissions — which are the major driver of the big heat build up the world is now experiencing — as rapidly as possible while pursuing ways to remove the excess carbon loading from the Earth Atmosphere. Without these necessary responses and mitigations, more warming will continue to be locked into the pipeline and the greater the eventual temperature departure from 1880s (Holocene) values will ultimately become — with the Arctic increasingly entering a hot zone.

Links/Statements/Attribution:

Earth Nullschool

Climate Reanalyzer

Methane Blowhole

NASA’s Earth Observatory

What’s Causing the Poles to Warm Faster Than the Rest of The Earth?

Paleoclimate Tells Us We Have 1-2 C Additional Warming in Pipeline From CO2 Forcing

Record Heat and Abnormal Flooding as Siberia Gets Freak Weather

Scientific hat tip to Dr. Jennifer Francis

Hat tip to Cate

Hat tip to Spike

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

(Note: This post is not intended to draw any specific conclusion on the scientifically controversial issue of potential Arctic carbon store releases. Time-frames and thresholds for such potential amplifying feedbacks in response to human-forced warming — be they small, moderate, large or catastrophic — are currently not very well understood in the science. Mainstream science asserts that such feedbacks will tend to be more moderate and happen over longer time scales given current understanding of carbon store resiliency. That said, the amount of heat build up due to human-forced warming in the Arctic is impressive and concerning. For these reasons carbon store sensitivity necessitates close monitoring and further research by responsible observers.)

Rapid Polar Warming Kicks ENSO Out of Climate Driver’s Seat, Sets off Big 2014-2016 Global Temperature Spike

“What is happening right now is we are catapulting ourselves out of the Holocene, which is the geological epoch that human civilisation has been able to develop in, because of the relatively stable climate. It allowed us to invent agriculture, rather than living as nomads. It allowed a big population growth, it allowed the foundation of cities, all of which required a stable climate.” — Stefan Rahmstorf

A strong El Nino in 2015 helped to contribute to record hot global temperatures over the past three years. But with so much heat unexpectedly showing up in the global climate system, there’s clearly something else going on. And indicators are that the natural climate variability that human beings have grown accustomed to over the last 10,000 years may now be a thing of the past — as it is steadily overwhelmed by a stronger overall greenhouse gas based warming signature. One that is concentrating more and more warming near the poles.

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2014 was the hottest year on record. But that lasted only until the end of 2015 — which shattered the 2014 global heat record by a big margin. Then 2016 rolled around and produced what could best be described as an insane heat spike during the January through May period. Now, it’s about 95 percent certain that the 2015 record will also fall, leaving 2016 as the new hottest year on record in yet one more climate vertigo inducing temperature jump.

noaa-jan-may-temps

(The rate of warming for 2014 through 2015 is just off the charts. This scares scientists, and it should. This makes many climate experts wonder about causes, and it should. Prime suspect for the increased rate of change — amplifying feedbacks in the Arctic. Image source: NOAA Global Analysis and Weather Underground.)

In the end, temperatures are expected to level off near 1 C above 20th Century averages and around 1.2 C above 1880s averages by the end of this year. That’s a 0.3 C leap up since the mid 2000s. A screaming rate of decadal warming that is about twice as fast as that experienced since 1979. That’s an insanely fast pace of heat build-up. And it’s got many scientists seriously concerned. The records, as the Guardian aptly notes, were not just broken, they were obliterated. Adam Scaife, a scientist at the Met Office in the UK, agrees:

“The numbers are completely unprecedented. They really stick out like a sore thumb… Including this year so far, 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have been since 2000 – it’s a shocking statistic.”

So what the heck is going on? We know that a strong El Nino just passed. But, though a real beast of a thing, the 2015-2016 event wasn’t quite as powerful as the 1997-1998 El Nino. And global temperatures will end up being about 50 percent hotter than 1998 averages by the end of this year. Essentially leaving this great El Nino’s heat spike in the dust. Meanwhile, scientists attribute about 1/5th of the 2014 to 2016 heat spike to El Nino. The rest came from someplace else. But where?

The first obvious suspect is greenhouse gasses. In 1998, atmospheric CO2 levels peaked at around 365 parts per million at the Mauna Loa Observatory. This year, that heat trapping gas hit near 408 parts per million in the same measure. That’s a 43 parts per million jump peak to peak in just 18 years. A 12 percent increase in a gas that is capable of causing severe geo-physical changes in what, geologically speaking, is not even a blink of an eye. And you have to go back millions of years into Earth’s history to find times when CO2 readings were so high.

So the big build-up of heat trapping gasses is the obvious driver of the overall insane rate of warming that we are now seeing. But that doesn’t account for what is an unexpected acceleration over the past three years. And to puzzle out that speed-up we need to dig a little deeper. To consider factors that are known as amplifying feedbacks.

And, thankfully, in this investigation, we are not flying completely blind. NASA and the other global climate monitors give us a rough global overview of where the Earth is warming up the fastest. And an investigation of comparable temperature anomalies at the Earth’s surface can give us some indication where the extra heat is coming from and why.

1997 — Some Polar Amplification (aka Death of Winter), But Mostly Equatorial Warming

The obvious choice is to pick two relevant years for comparison. And for our purposes we’ll pick 2015 and 1997. The reason for this pick is that both 1997 and 2015 were years in which strong El Ninos were building up and having their impact on the global climate system. And based on what we know about El Nino, we can expect a lot of heat coming out of the Equatorial Pacific as sea surface temperatures there ramp up. In a climate system that is only driven by a natural variability related El Nino, what you’d expect is that the primary heat spike would be in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific region. Any other heat spike would be a possible indicator of another climate driver for global temperatures.

1997 Temperature Anomaly

(1997 may have been the last year in which a big El Nino still maintained a tenuous grip as the primary driver for the global climate system. Image source: NASA.)

So for the year of 1997 (Jan-Dec) we find that a strong heat pulse does originate from the Eastern Equatorial Pacific region. In fact, it’s the largest zone containing temperature anomalies in the range of 2 to 4 C above average. But during this year we also find some pretty big anomalies in Central and North Asia. These flow across the Bering Sea into Alaska, Northwest Canada, and the Beaufort. High Arctic temperatures are somewhat cooler, though still anomalously warm. And West Antartica also shows its own, not insignificant temperature spike.

Given the fact that El Nino will tend to strengthen the Jet Stream and generate a warming bias in the tropical zones, we can already see that there’s probably some polar amplification going on in 1997. And overall, the northern polar zone from 66 North to 90 North shows a positive anomaly signature that is just 0.1 C shy of the equatorial anomaly produced by El Nino. But the heat signal between El Nino and Northern Hemisphere polar amplification appears to be more balanced, with El Nino still providing a slightly stronger share of the overall heat contribution.

Understanding Polar Amplification’s Impact Due to Global Warming

For reference — polar amplification is an expected more rapid increase in polar temperatures as global greenhouse gas concentrations increase. Under pressure from greenhouse gasses, the poles warm faster for a number of reasons. The first is due to albedo or reflectivity loss as ice melts. White ice changing to brown earth or blue ocean due to melt absorbs more sunlight and creates a preferential warming at the poles. In addition, greenhouse gasses (especially CO2) capture and re-radiate sunlight’s heat energy like a blanket. As a result, temperatures tend to homogenize more over the globe resulting in a greater rate of temperature increase where it’s coolest and darkest. And the poles are the coolest and darkest places on Earth.

A third cause of polar amplification involves added heat resulting in natural carbon store release. And some of the greatest concentrations of the world’s sequestered carbon stores are locked in frozen ground and water at or near the poles. If ice at the poles thaws, you tend to end up with a higher overburden of greenhouse gasses in these regions. This is particularly true in the Northern Hemisphere where large regions of permafrost and ocean carbon stores are more vulnerable to release from early warming than the deeply sequestered stores in Antarctica.

(Dr. Jennifer Francis’s observations on Jet Stream weakening and polar amplification have big implications both down [Pole] and up [Equator] stream.)

Finally, as the polar zones warm up, they tend to generate weaknesses in the circumpolar Jet Stream. This is due to the fact that temperature differences between pole and tropics drive both Jet Stream speed and strength. As the relative difference drops off, the Jet Stream slows. And when the Jet Stream slows it meanders — creating big troughs and ridges centering on the middle Latitudes but sometimes extending all the way up to the poles. In the ridge zones, warm air is able to drive further north or south. And this feeds polar amplification by linking hot Equatorial air masses with the Pole itself. Over recent years, high amplitude Jet Stream waves have become a regular feature of the global climate system and have been associated with numerous extreme weather events — some of the most notable being the Russian Heatwave and Pakistan floods of 2011 and the anomalous late December 2015 warming of the North Pole above freezing.

2015 — Polar Amplification in the Driver’s Seat

By 2015, the polar amplification signature, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, started to look ridiculously strong.

2015 El Nino Polar Amplification

(2015’s picture of Polar Amplification during an El Nino year should disturb anyone who knows anything about how global climate systems should work. Image source: NASA.)

And during this year we find that the zone of greatest temperature anomalies lies not over the Equatorial Pacific — but over the high Latitude regions of the Northern Hemisphere. 2-4 C above average temperatures dominate a huge zone stretching from North Central Asia and Europe and on up to the North Pole. A similar zone dominates Northwestern Canada, Alaska and the Beaufort Sea. And pretty much the entire Northern Hemisphere Polar and near Polar zone falls under 1-4 C above average temperatures for the year.

By comparison, the Eastern Equatorial Pacific appears to play second fiddle to the Polar and near Polar heat build up. A broad region across the Central and Eastern Equatorial Pacific does see 1-2 C above average temperatures, with a small pool of 2-4 C deltas off South America. But it’s not that much greater a signal than a significant heat pool over the Indian Ocean. And the Northern Hemisphere near Polar zone is altogether the area that’s clearly the global heat center of gravity. An observation bearing out in NASA’s zonal anomaly measure which finds that Latitudes  66 to 90 North were about 1.6 C above average and the highest relative temperature anomaly zone on the planet. Meanwhile, the Equator lags at +1.2 C above normal. That’s a relative Equator to Pole anomaly change of +0.5 C from El Nino years 1997 to 2015. An indicator that El Nino may no longer be the primary driver of the global temperature and climate engine. And that its overall role is greatly diminished over the 1997 to 2015 timeframe. And, finally, that a greenhouse gas based warming polar amplification signature is now in the driver’s seat.

So, basically what we have during an El Nino year is the pole warming relative to the Equator and under any condition other than human forced climate change — this is something that definitely should not happen. In other words, you’re not in Kansas anymore and Kansas isn’t on Earth anymore. At least the Earth that human civilization is used to. For what we’re experiencing is the climate of a planet that is definitely not operating under Holocene norms — but under the transitionally destabilizing forces of greenhouse gas based warming.

Warm Air Slots and The Death of Winter

So in comparison to 1997, it appears that during 2015 the Northern Pole gained heat very rapidly (increasing by +1 C over these 18 years) while Equatorial heat continued to build (adding +0.4 C over the same period). In other words, Polar warming was about 2.5 times faster than Equatorial warming during the 18 year interval. The result is that by the El Nino year of 2015, the Pole showed dramatically higher relative global temperature anomaly spikes. This, in a few simple words, is the evidence of a greenhouse gas warming based polar amplification writ large. But digging down into the details a bit more we find a number of further disturbing clues as to what’s really going on in the grinding gears of our global climate machinery.

September of 2015's Crushed Polar Vortex During a Spiking El Nino is a Bad Sign

(September of 2015’s crushed polar vortex and high amplitude Jet Stream wave patterns during a peak period of Equatorial heat known as El Nino is a bad, bad sign. A clear indication that polar amplification is starting the drive and destabilize the global climate regime. September 10 of 2015’s Northern Hemisphere Polar reference Jet Stream capture is by Earth Nullschool.)

The first is the appearance of a big warm air slot running directly from the Equatorial Pacific over the Eastern Pacific and North America and on up into the Northern Polar zone. Here we find the signature of 2015’s ridiculously resilient ridge (RRR) pattern in the NASA global anomaly map for the year. Warm air consistently funneled directly from the Equator, was drawn through the high amplitude ridge (see Dr Francis’s video above) and pulled into the polar zone.

But the RRR zone wasn’t the only big warm air slot pulling air north during 2015 — just, perhaps, the most obvious. A second big warm air slot appeared over the Eastern North Atlantic, Western Europe and extended to cover most of Asia. And this enormous Equatorial air sucking beast really ramped into high gear during late December of 2015 when it drove North Pole temperatures above freezing.

QBO Gravity Wave

(Upper level Equatorial zonal winds all peaked at the same time during September of 2015. A sign that Equatorial heat went north in a manner that produces some potentially bad implications for Northern Hemisphere Winter under a regime of human-forced climate change. Image source: Anthony Masiello.)

Taken in total, these warm air slots were enormous — exerting an amazing influence over the totality of global weather. The overall story is one in which the polar vortex was basically getting smashed during an El Nino year. Another big indication that things are teetering pretty far off kilter. One indicator of this was an anomalous spiking of all the upper level Equatorial wind speeds at the same time (in the Quasi Biennial Oscillation measure) during September of 2015. An event that current climate theory says shouldn’t happen, but it did. And yet one more hint that the Hadley Cell produced a huge northward bulge at the time. It’s also an indicator that Northern Hemisphere Winter is getting steadily beaten back to the ropes by the bully of northward running heat.

So what we’ve seen from 1997 to 2015 is a dramatic transition in which El Nino appears to have lost climate influence powers and become a slave to what is now a heat-sucking engine at the pole. It’s an emerging first phase of a death of winter type scenario. And the upshot is that the extra heat in the system that scientists are getting pretty concerned about appears now to be coming in large part from a ramping Northern Hemisphere polar amplification.

Links:

NOAA Global Analysis

NASA GISS

NOAA and NASA — Earth’s Warmest May on Record

Dr Jennifer Francis on Polar Amplification and the Jet Stream

Anthony Masiello

Quasi Biennial Oscillation

Earth Nullschool

Shattered Global Temperature Records Reveals Climate Change Emergency

Scientific hat tip to Dr. Jeff Masters and his best-in-class Weather Underground

Scientific hat tip to the prescient Dr. Jennifer Francis

Scientific hat tip to Dr. Stefan Rahmstorf

Scientific hat tip to Adam Scaife

Hat tip to Greg

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Cate

Hat tip to DT Lange

 

 

A Blizzard Roars Out of Climate Change’s Heart — Polar Warming and A Record Hot Atlantic Ocean Brew Up Nightmare Storm for US East Coast

There’s a historic blizzard in the form of Winter Storm Jonas setting its sights on the US East Coast. The storm is slowly coming together Thursday evening and now appears to be set to paralyze a 1,000 mile swath under 1 to 2.5 feet of snow even as it hurls a substantial storm surge and 40-60 mph winds at waterfront cities from Norfolk to Boston. A monster storm whose predicted formation has made headlines since Tuesday. But what you won’t hear most major news sources mention is the likelihood that this gathering storm has been dramatically impacted by a number of new climate features related to a human-forced warming of the globe.

Jonas Begins its Ocean-heat Fueled Rampage in Southeastern US

(Jonas begins its ocean-heat-fueled rampage on the evening of Thursday, January 21. Image source: NOAA.)

A Warming Arctic Shoves the Cold Air Out

To understand how climate change helped make Jonas so extreme, it’s best if we start our tale in the Arctic. For if we could mark an area on the Earth’s surface that is at the very heart of impacts for human-caused climate change it would be in that zone of the far north above the 66th parallel. It is there that we see the most dramatic, most rapid changes — to ice, to weather, to the thawing lands, to life itself. But unlike what might be said of an American city made famous by its penchant for sin — what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.

This is especially true when it comes to weather. If the Arctic cools, it influences the Jet Stream, strengthens the storm track and shuts more cold air away in the Arctic. But if the Arctic warms, as it has more and more frequently during recent years, then the flood-gates open and cold, Arctic air pours outward — filling the deep, inevitable dips in the Jet Stream that then develop.

And it is a massive accumulation of Arctic heat over the past few weeks that has forced Arctic temperatures, in places, to rocket to above 36 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees C) warmer than average. A heating up of the entire region to 2-3 degrees Celsius warmer than the already warmer than average 1979- 2000 baseline. An Arctic warm-up that muscled out a howling torrent of cold air that then raged on into a deep trough in the Jet Stream now forming over the eastern half of the United States.

Hot Arctic, Cold, Stormy Eastern USMangled Jet Stream, Raging Storm Track

(An Arctic that is, on average 2.02 C hotter than normal on Friday joins with a high amplitude wave in the Jet Stream and together drives a massive flood of cold air into eastern parts of the US on Friday. Cold air slamming head on into unprecedented heat and moisture bleeding of the Atlantic Ocean to form the historic weather event that is now in the pipe. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

CAPE — Storms Fueled by Cold Colliding With Hot

In weather parlance, a trough, or a big dip in the Jet Stream is a storm generation zone. The reason has to do with the nature of how extreme differences in temperature and moisture can provide fuel for strong storms. It’s this very temperature differential that sits as the cornerstone of our current understanding of how extreme storms are fueled in terms of Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE).

In the one case, cold air can’t hold as much water in suspension as warm air. So a big flood of cold air can often fuel major precipitation events when coming into collision with hot, moisture-laden air. As hot and cold air are sandwiched closer together, winds — at both the upper and lower levels — tend to increase in velocity. The higher the difference in temperature, the stronger the winds. When these winds run along a big dip in the Jet Stream — like the one now racing over the US East Coast — they can spin off twists and vortexes that can rapidly develop into powerful low pressure systems.

The lows then feed on the difference in temperatures between the two sides of the dividing air-mass — cold on the one side, and hot, wet on the other. The bigger the differential, the more heat and moisture on one side, and the more cold on the other side, the more potential that such low pressure centers will develop into monster storms. The more potential that the storms will develop these crazy atmospheric sandwiches of hot and cold air that really crank out the extreme weather.

Dulles International Airport 5 inch per hour thundersnow potential identified

(“Tremendous Vertical Motion.” Anthony Sagliani tweets about extreme CAPE for a blizzard zeroing in on the US East Coast. What’s important to mention is that human-forced climate change has CAPE written all over it. Image source: Anthony Sagliani.)

In terms of the current storm, some of the CAPE potentials coming in are just off the charts. The above graphic, posted in this recent tweet by Anthony Sagliani, identifies the potential for 5 inch per hour thundersnow at Dulles International Airport (AID) between 2 AM and 2 PM Saturday. To be very clear, a 1 inch per hour snowfall was once considered an extreme event. Now we are looking at possibly 5!

A Record Hot Atlantic Feeds it All

In the context of human-driven climate change, this is one of the reasons why our warming up of the world can generate extreme weather. It warms the Earth unevenly. It puts cold next to hot by driving cold out of the polar zones and by warming up huge areas of land and ocean. And it dumps more moisture into the atmosphere through an amplified evaporation from these greatly warmed Earth surfaces. Mix it all together and you get Anthony Sagliani’s ‘tremendous vertical motion.’

How does this work? In two words — latent heat. More specifically the convective heat energy available in water vapor. And where does most of that latent heat energy come from? It comes, for the most part, in the form of warm waters evaporating into the air above the world’s oceans. More specifically to our current storm it comes in the form of record warm to near record warm temperatures in the waters of the Gulf Stream off the US East Coast (See Dr Jeff Master’s ‘The Future of Intense Winter Storms”).

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(Sea surface temperatures off the US East Coast are more comparable to those seen during Summer than what would be typical for January. A 76 degree sea surface off Norfolk will provide a massive amount of heat and moisture to fuel the new kind of storm that is Jonas. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

As Dr. Michael Mann noted in a tweet earlier this week, sea surface temperatures off the US East Coast are extraordinarily warm for this time of year. And Bill McKibben was absolutely astute in saying that these near record temperatures “should turbo-charge this weekend’s blizzard.”

And they’re absolutely ridiculously warm — in the range of 76 degrees Fahrenheit in a region about 150 miles due east of Norfolk, Virginia. A region of ocean over which the developing storm center will directly cross. An area of water that is now in the range of 7 degrees Celsius above average (13 degrees Fahrenheit). For the ocean surface, this is screaming hot — more typical to summer than anything one would expect to see in January, even in the Gulf Stream.

You just don’t see these kinds of temperature departures for the ocean — or at least you didn’t before human-caused climate change started to ramp up. But now we have them — an ocean surface hot enough to support a hurricane but one that will this weekend provide fuel for a blizzard. So the kind of blizzard we will have will not at all be like even the usual blizzards of the 20th Century. This is the new, worse variety that will sadly become more frequent. Destructive, heavy snowfall in the 4-5 inches per hour range, thundersnow and storm surges combined, swaths of hundreds of miles impacted and crippled. The kind for the new age of a human-heated atmosphere — destabilized to produce freak storms of a ferocity and frequency the likes of which we have never seen.

UPDATE — Snowfall Begins With Some Models Showing 4 Feet or More Possible (Average Guidance For Gaithersburg is 24-30 Inches)

Moderate snowfall began at 1:35 PM on Friday in my hometown of Gaithersburg, MD. Model guidance for our area is in the range of 24-30 inches, with as much as 4 feet coming up in some of the GFS ensembles.

Will be posting videos and related updates every 2-3 hours as conditions change.

UPDATE: 1-2 Inches on the Ground at Gaithersburg, MD as of 3:42 PM

(See Video of 3:42 PM snowfall here)

Wind and rates of snowfall have picked up somewhat over the past two hours. As of 3:42 PM, about 1-2 inches had fallen and the wind was visibly swaying some of the tree branches outside. Reports are coming in from regions to the south of a very heavy band of snow that should arrive in our area by later this evening.

Radar captures by the National Weather Service indicate this band setting up over much of Central and Eastern North Carolina — stretching northward through just west of Richmond. GFS model tracking and satellite confirmation indicate a coastal low developing in the region of Northern South Carolina. This low is beginning to transfer Atlantic moisture into the storm — pulling strong winds off that abnormally warm region of ocean just east of Norfolk and into the developing powerful snowfall band.

Jonas 420 PM NWS Radar

(Image source: National Weather Service.)

Sustained winds along the coast are now approaching gale force.  We should expect these winds to rapidly increase over the afternoon and evening hours even as the moisture feed and rate of snowfall intensifies.

UPDATE: Rate of Snowfall Still Picking up at 6:05 PM; Heavy Bands Expected by 10 PM

(See Video of 6:05 PM Snowfall Here)

Rates of snowfall continue to steadily increase for the Gaithersburg Area. As of 6:05 PM EST on Friday, 3-4 inches lay on the ground in Montgomery County Maryland. A heavy band of snow continued to gather to the south as the storm center went ongoing intensification near the border of South Carolina and North Carolina and just off-shore. Guidance provided by that National Weather Service indicates that heaviest rates of snowfall are still about 4 hours away. Radar indicates this band is forming just north of Richmond at this time.

UPDATE: At 10:30 PM, Heavy Snow Settles in with Six Inches Already on the Ground

(See 10:30 PM Video Here)

As of 1030 PM, heavy bands of snow had started to stream into the Gaithersburg area. Winds were picking up — in the range of 15-25 mph with some higher gusts. A healthy covering of about six inches of snowfall already lay on the ground. National weather service radar at this time indicated a series of stronger bands of precipitation just south of DC and moving northward. Meanwhile, atmospheric analysis indicates the center of Jonas now over Eastern North Carolina and strengthening. Over the next 6-12 hours Jonas is expected to intensify as it traverses toward the Chesapeake Bay. This should bring increasingly intense bands of snowfall over the area.

UPDATE: 1:35 AM Intense, Heavy Snow, 10-12 Inches on the Ground, Howling Gusts

By 1:35 AM, conditions again deteriorated for the region of Montgomery County. Snow accumulations had hit between 10 and 12 inches and the winds were really starting to howl and moan.

National Weather Service Radar indicated that the low pressure center had moved out over the Chesapeake Bay even as the wide-ranging storm really started to pull in substantial amounts of heat and moisture off the Atlantic. This kicked the storm into a higher intensity that will likely last, for the DC region, until around 1 PM tomorrow. We are entering the period of most intense storminess and snowfall now. Over the coming hours conditions could get quite extreme with 2-5 inch per hour snowfall rates and thundersnow in some areas. In other words — we’re starting to hit the height of this long-duration event.

Storm Really Starting to Crank Up Severe Snowfall over DC Area

National Weather Service Radar above shows very heavy snowfall bands moving directly over the DC Metro area at this time even as the Atlantic moisture feed grows more intense. Regional snowfall forecasts have remained quite extraordinary with most locations in the area now expecting between 18 and 40 inches. Still one heck of a night ahead!

Links:

NOAA (Please support public, non-special-interest based science, like the fantastic work done by the experts at NOAA)

Dr Jennifer Francis

Dr Michael E Mann

Bill McKibben

Anthony Sagliani

Dr. Jeff Masters: The Future of Intense Winter Storms

Jonas to Wallop 1,000 Mile Swath of US East Coast

Climate Reanalyzer

Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE)

Earth Nullschool

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

 

Climate Change’s ‘Blob’ Heats Up In Northeast Pacific

They call it The Blob. No, it’s not some campy 1950s horror flick featuring a gelatinous monstrosity from space aimed at devouring all life in its path. This Blob is a pool of much hotter than normal water that has become increasingly entrenched in the North-East Pacific. A surface zone of record ocean warmth that has persisted and intensified in the same region for the better part of two years.

Though it’s not the sci-fi movie Blob, this particular climate change monstrosity could well be described as stranger than fiction. It’s an ocean feature of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge which has warded storms off the North American West Coast over the past couple of years. A likely upshot of an ongoing Arctic heating — setting off weather conditions that sparked both this year’s massive Northwest Territory Wildfires and the worst drought the California region has seen in at least 1,000 years. And like the sci-fi movie space monster of yore, the Northeast Pacific heat Blob has a nasty penchant for devouring ocean life of all kinds.

image

(Under an ongoing El Nino, the Equatorial Pacific is getting pretty hot with temperature spikes ranging from +2.5 C above normal temperatures at mid-ocean to +4 C above average off the West Coast of South America. But these rather warm temperature anomalies are nothing compared to The Blob [at center frame above] which now features temperatures in the range of +5 C above average. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

The news about The Blob today comes in two forms — bad and worse. The bad news is that it’s still there. Still influencing our weather, still threatening sea life and fisheries. And the worse news is that it appears to be heating up. Today’s readings put much of The Blob in the 3.5 to 5.5 C above average temperature range, which is 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius warmer than we’ve seen in this zone since its first heat intensification during the spring of 2014.

Wonky Weather

Back in April, a study published in Geophysical Research Letters and reported in LiveScience found that temperatures over a broad region of Northeast Pacific surface waters had averaged between 1-4 C (2 to 7 F) above normal temperatures.  It covered an area roughly 1,000 miles in diameter and extended about 300 feet below surface waters.

Nick Bond, one of the study’s co-authors (and coiner of the term ‘Blob’), had this statement for the American Geophysical Union:

“In the fall of 2013 and early 2014 we started to notice a big, almost circular mass of water that just didn’t cool off as much as it usually did, so by spring of 2014 it was warmer than we had ever seen it for that time of year.”

WarmBlob_April2014_NOAA-2

(Warm Blob T anomalies for April of 2014 as provided by NOAA and AGU. Note that today’s anomalies are well in excess of April 2014 readings.)

The Blob’s large size combined with its failure to cool in spring to set off some rather strange weather impacts, according to the report’s findings. Winds blowing over high heat content ocean waters ran inland over the US and Canadian West Coasts. This invasion pushed warm air over lands and mountains. Snowpacks melted, lands warmed and dried out. Massive wildfires erupted thoughout both the US and Canada.

The hot air mass over the warm water blob has acted as a brutish atmospheric feature since this time. Like a towering wall of air it has consistently deflected oncoming storms that typically charge across the Pacific During Winter and Spring — reinforcing a weird extreme weather regime.

Threat to Sea Life

The AGU report also cited recent severe impacts to sea life as found in a March 17 study by NOAA. Highlights of the NOAA study showed substantial ocean life impacts including weaker copopod production in the warming waters, likely less vital salmon fisheries, bird deaths, marine mammal deaths and starving sea lions due to scarcity of food sources. In addition, the warm temperatures have been linked to a starfish wasting sickness that has killed off millions of sea stars up and down the North American West Coast.

What the NOAA report did not include was growing evidence that warming waters off the US West Coast have (when combined with eutriphication due to atmospheric nitrogen seeding through fossil fuel burning and farm nutrient runoff), since the early 2000s, resulted in increasingly dangerous low ocean oxygen levels (see Starving Sea Lion Pups and Liquified Starfish). It’s a one-two warming and oxygen loss that is pretty amazingly dangerous to ocean life.

The NOAA study further noted that the high sea surface temperatures spurring these impacts were at or near unprecedented levels, a confirmation of the AGU report findings:

We are in some ways entering a situation we haven’t seen before,” said Cisco Werner, Director of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif. “That makes it all the more important to look at how these conditions affect the entire ecosystem because different components and different species may be affected differently.”

PDO and Climate Change Not Helping

The current unprecedented warm temperatures in The Blob are, in part, an upshot of a warmer sea surface state now in effect called positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). During these times, Pacific Ocean waters tend to be warmer — especially in the region where the Blob has recently emerged. During December of 2014, PDO hit new all-time record high values — an extreme likely pushed over the top by added atmospheric and ocean heating through human greenhouse gas emissions.

During positive PDO periods, El Nino events both tend to be more prevalent and show higher intensity. And during spring and summer El Ninos, we tend to see increased warming of the Pacific region now dominated by The Blob.

image

(A powerful blocking pattern associated with The Blob remains in place today. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

All these PDO based fluxes are natural variability related. But the real kicker, the icing on the cake of this extreme event is almost certainly climate change. Specifically for the hot Blob zone, general greenhouse gas warming of the adjacent Arctic called Polar Amplification has tended to generate a weakness in the Jet Stream directly over the region. This weakness has tended to aid in Ridiculously Resilient Ridge development and the month on month, year on year heatwaves that have pushed ocean temperatures in this zone into ever more extreme hot values (see Dr. Francis’s “Weird Weather Plot Thickens As Arctic Swiftly Warms“). And though overall global warming now in the range of +0.95 C above 1880s values has also likely contributed in a broader sense, the direct impact to the Arctic has likely aided in the development of a high anomaly heat spike for this particular ocean zone.

So, in total, we have a number of factors pushing record ocean warmth in this region, setting the stage for sea creature death and wrecked North American weather alike. But the primary contributor to these unsettling events is almost certainly climate change. For its influences have made possible the new levels of extreme conditions which we are now experiencing.

Links:

Causes and Impacts of the 2014 Warm Anomaly in the Northeast Pacific

Warm Blob in Pacific Linked to Weird US Weather

NOAA: West Coast Waters Shifting to Lower Productivity Regime

Earth Nullschool

Weird Weather Plot Thickens As Arctic Swiftly Warms

Starving Sea Lion Pups and Liquified Starfish

Arctic Heatwave Forecast to Crush Northern Hemisphere Snow Cover This Week

The Russian side of the Arctic is heating up.

A high amplitude ridge in the Jet Stream is forecast to develop atop the Yamal region of Russia, expand northward over the Kara and Laptev seas, inject a plume of anomalously warm air over the polar region, and then proceed on along the Arctic Ocean shores of Siberia. Beneath this ridge, temperatures over the Arctic Ocean will spike to +1 to +4 C above average while temperatures over land will hit extreme +20 C and higher anomalies.

Arctic Heatwave June 6

(Arctic heatwave invades Siberia in the GFS forecast for later this week as depicted by Climate Reanalyzer.)

Arctic Ocean zones are forecast to see temperatures climb above freezing for much of the 80 degree North Latitude zone. Over Siberia, land-based temperatures are predicted to range from the 40s and 50s along the Arctic Ocean boundary and climb to the 60s to 80s in regions just inland.

As temperatures tend to flatten out over Arctic Ocean waters and as permafrost zones in Siberia are used to far cooler readings during Northern Hemisphere Summer, the predicted heatwave is likely to have some rather strong impacts should it emerge. Most notably, snow cover over remaining land and sea ice is expected to see a rather extreme reduction over the next seven days. In other words, GFS forecast models show Northern Hemisphere snow cover basically getting crushed:

Current snow CoverPredicted Snow Cover

(Massive reduction in Northern Hemisphere [NH] snow cover predicted coincident with Siberian Heatwave later this week. Left frame shows current NH snow cover. Right frame shows predicted NH snow cover for Tuesday, June 9. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Sparse remaining snow cover in Northeast Siberia along the East Siberian Arctic Shelf coastal zone is expected to be pretty much wiped out. One foot average snow cover along the shores of the Laptev and Kara seas is also expected to melt. And a broad section of remaining snow upon the sea ice is predicted to retreat away from the North Polar region — receding back toward the final haven near Greenland.

Snow is important for spring and summer-time Arctic temperature moderation due to the fact that it provides insulation to sea ice and permafrost as well as serving as a reflective, high-albedo surface that bounces back some of the incoming heat from the 24-hour seasonal Arctic sun. Snow melt, on the other hand, serves to form albedo-reducing melt ponds over the Arctic Ocean sea ice during summer. A critical factor in late season melt forecasting in which more June melt ponds tend to mean lower sea ice totals by end season. In addition, snow melt fills permafrost zone rivers with above-freezing waters that then flow into the Arctic Ocean — providing yet another heat forcing to the sea ice.

Conditions in Context

This weekly trend and forecast is consistent with an ongoing tendency during 2015 for strong ridge formation and warm air slot development over both Alaska and the Yamal region of Russia. The high amplitude ridges also likely have teleconnections with larger weather patterns such as El Nino in the Pacific, the warm water pool (hot blob) in the Northeast Pacific, and record low sea ice extents continuing for most of Northern Hemisphere Spring. Observations that are also consistent with the predictions made by Dr. Jennifer Francis that are a direct upshot of polar amplification set off by human-caused warming of the global climate system.

image

(GFS model forecast as depicted by Earth Nullschool showing ridge Northwest Territory, trough Greenland and North Atlantic, ridge Kara and Laptev region of Siberia. A dynamic that may be the result of teleconnections set off by factors related to human-caused climate change. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

It’s worth noting that many of these factors are self reinforcing. For example, more sea ice melt results in higher amplitude wave formation in the Jet Stream. Higher amplitude wave formation in the Jet Stream transports more warmth to the Arctic environment, resulting in more sea ice and snow melt which in turn weakens the Jet Stream further. A longer-term amplifying feedback of Arctic carbon release may also be in play (hinted at by an overburden of both CO2 and methane in the local Arctic atmosphere), which would also contribute to the conditions we now observe.

A final feedback, this one somewhat negative, occurs as a result of Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) melt. Large cold, freshwater outflows from GIS into the North Atlantic result in localized cooling in that region. This feedback (also related to AMO weakening) enhances trough formation throughout the North Atlantic region adjacent to Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago. A final potential teleconnection to the ridges we see forming over both Yamal and the Alaska/Northwest Territory zone.

Links:

Climate Reanalyzer

Earth Nullschool

Heat Wave Forecast for Russia

Rapid Arctic Sea Ice Loss Linked to Extreme Weather

Tracking for Early Season Melt Pond Formation at The Arctic Ice Blog

Accelerating Global Warming? NASA Shows February of 2015 was Second Hottest on Record

The Earth started out 2015 very hot. A record hot range that some researchers are now saying may be the beginning of a period of accelerated global warming.

***

For the global temperature measure, February of 2015 was another extraordinarily warm month. One more hot month in an unbroken chain stretching all the way back to the mid 1980s. The second hottest February in the whole of the NASA record ever since temperature monitoring began in 1880.

In total, NASA GISS shows February of 2015 topping out as the warmest February of the new millennium at 0.79 degrees Celsius above the 20th Century average. A reading 1.06 C above temperatures measured during 1880. Only February of 1998 was hotter (Of all of the super El Nino year of 1998, only February and June still hold records as hottest months in the NASA measure).

But perhaps most importantly, the average of 2015’s first two months is 0.77 C above the 20th Century. This is just behind 2007 (by just 0.02 C) as the hottest two-month start of any year during the past 135, and likely hotter than at any time during the Holocene and possibly in the past 120,000 years altogether.

Temperature Map February NASA

(Global temperature anomaly map. Image source: NASA.)

Global temperature anomaly analysis by NASA shows extraordinary warmth for much of the Northern Hemisphere. In particular, most of the land mass of Asia experienced far above average readings. Temperatures in this zone measured as high as 8.4 degrees Celsius above average for the entire month — yet one more extraordinary period of departure for a rapidly warming region.

The North American West Coast through to Alaska also showed much warmer than normal readings. A pattern coincident with both a vast pool of warm water in the Northeastern Pacific and a ridiculously resilient ridge of high pressure (and coincident high amplitude wave in the Jet Stream) that has formed for seasonal periods over the region since the winter of 2012-2013.

Abnormal warmth was also pervasive through the tropics, the Arctic, Africa, Australia, sections of East and West Antarctica, and over most Oceanic zones. The only region experiencing colder than normal readings was the Eastern Half of North America. An area in the downward sloping trough of the prevalent Rossby Wave and associated hot-cold dipole pattern that has been so common for North America during recent winters.

Zonal Anomalies Feb 2015

(Temperature anomaly by Latitudinal Zone for February of 2015. Image source: NASA.)

NASA’s zonal anomalies measure shows very strong polar heat amplification, which is a tell-tale of the human greenhouse gas heat forcing, at the Arctic Circle line (66 North Latitude) and continuing on northward. Zonal anomalies peaked at around the 66 degrees North Latitude line in the range of 2.8 C above average for the entire month. Anomalies declined poleward but still maintained 1.5 to 2.5 C above average ratings.

Though somewhat cooler than the Northern Polar Region, the rest of the global also showed above average temperatures in almost all zones. 30-60 North showed readings ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 C above average, the tropics maintained about a +0.6 C above average range, 30-60 South ranged between 0 and 0.6 C above average with a dip in the heat sink and high wind region of the Southern Ocean. The Southern Polar Region showed the only zonal below average reading with -0.2 C between 85 and 90 South, but the entire region of 60-90 South ranged about 0.15 C hotter than average.

Conditions in Context

The main features of the current globally hot February are a weak El Nino in the Central Pacific (declared by NOAA in early March), a strong positive PDO pattern of very warm sea surface temperatures throughout the Pacific and an extreme polar amplification in the region of 60-90 North Latitude.

According to IPCC forecasts and Pacific Ocean warming impact studies, both the El Nino, which has tended to shift more toward the Central Pacific, and the amazing polar amplification are indications of what was expected in a world seeing a rapid accumulation of greenhouse gasses through the mechanism of human fossil fuel emission. The North American Rossby Wave pattern combined with extremely warm temperatures in the West and cold, stormy and snowy conditions in the East, was also predicted as a potential upshot of warmer than normal readings at the pole reducing temperature differentials from North to South and encouraging weakness and waviness in the Jet Stream (Francis). PDO intensification, contributing to a warm water pool off the North American West Coast and coincident mid Pacific El Nino may also have a teleconnection-type (Where large weather patterns reinforce and enhance the formation of other large weather patterns that may be hundreds or thousands of miles removed from the first. Some have poetically referred to teleconnection as an atmospheric dance.) influence with the ridging pattern in the west and the related troughing pattern in the east.

In global climate models, cool pools of water near Greenland and West Antarctica are also implicated in potential trough/Rossby Wave type patterns (severe frontal storms) which may also be influencing the extreme weather seen in the Northeastern US during February. These pools are associated with glacial melt and coincident fresh water outflow. In the North Atlantic, this has implications for global thermohaline circulation. A strong thermohaline circulation is essential for ocean mixing and related ocean health.

Overall, the global temperature disposition, extreme temperature anomaly, and related strange weather patterns are anything but a normal. They are instead indicative of the kinds of extraordinary climates and extreme weather both computer models and researchers have predicted as a direct result of human-caused warming.

Entering a Rapidly Warming World

entering a rapidly warming world

(Even with a rapid draw down in human emissions to RCP 4.5 levels, computer model essays show 40 year average rates of warming will likely accelerate over the next few decades. Image source: Near-Term Acceleration in the Rate of Temperature Change.)

To this point, it appears that some climate models are in agreement that the period of the next few decades are likely to see an accelerated warming trend. Decadal rates of warming, during this time, are expected to accelerate to between 0.2 and 0.25 C per ten years, even if human greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly drawn down. The result would be about 1.4 to 1.6 C worth of warming above 1880s levels by or before 2040. Without a rapid draw-down, and a continuation on the current catastrophic path of fossil fuel burning, recent model essays from Dr. Michael Mann indicate that humans could exceed the 2 C warming threshold by the mid 2030s.

Links:

Near-Term Acceleration in the Rate of Temperature Change

GISS Surface Temperature Analysis

Paleoclimate Implications For Human-Made Climate Change

Warming Arctic May be Causing Heatwaves Elsewhere in the World

The California Weather Blog

Increasing Intensity of El Nino in the Central Equatorial Pacific

Evidence Linking Arctic Amplification to Extreme Weather in the Mid-Latitudes

Greenland Melt — Exponential?

Far Worse than Being Beaten With a Hockey Stick

Earth Entering a New Period of Rapid Temperature Change

Hat tip to Bassman

Mangled Jet Stream + Global Warming + Hot Atlantic Water = Boston Buried Under 8 Feet of Snow

If you deny that warmer ocean temps -> greater snowfall w/ coastal winter storms, you are not a climate denier. You are a physics denier. — from the Twitter feed of Dr Michael E. Mann, Climate Scientist

*  *  *  *

Boston just experienced its snowiest month on record and, yes, it really is climate change, stupid. In essence, as Michael Mann notes above, it’s a matter of oceanic and atmospheric physics.

Consider the fact that the ocean surface is warming at an unprecedented rate. Consider also the fact that this observed warming is resulting in a number of powerful south to north flows of air over ocean regions and toward the polar zone.

Over the past month, these powerful warm air flows pushed strongly into both Alaska and Svalbard — causing 20-30 C above average temperatures in regions of the Arctic along the 70 to 80 degree north latitude lines. For Alaska, the warmth was so prevalent and intense that it forced the Iditerod sled dog race to be moved 300 miles north for want of snow and ice. On this past Sunday night in Svalbard, just above the 80 degree north latitude line, temperatures were a balmy 1.2 degrees Celsius. An extraordinary above freezing reading in a land where temperatures during this time of year are typically 20 to 30 degrees Celsius below that mark.

image

(Anomalous above freezing temperatures in the land of winter dark and chill. Also note the very powerful south to north air flows originating from the 30 degree north latitude line and terminating in the Arctic near 70 to 80 north. These flows exist in both the Pacific and the Atlantic — hugging the coastal zone and flowing strongly northward along a reoriented storm track. Image source: Earth Nullschool. Data source: Global Forecast System Model.)

All this warm air moving north must have an impact. And that impact is to leave Greenland and the eastern North American Continent as the remaining refuge for cold Arctic air that would typically amass over a rather thick pack of sea ice. But that sanctuary for cold is increasingly frail and unstable. For the ice is thinner and itself rests upon waters that are warming. So the cold instead moves to land and to land ice — both bodies with physical properties better able to keep cold during the long winter dark.

So the cold flees its previous habitat in the far north near the pole and instead dives about 1,500 miles south over Greenland, Eastern Canada and the US. In the upper atmosphere, this pattern is reflected by a huge trough in the Jet Stream. One that has been repeatedly identified by the crackerjack research of Dr. Jennifer Francis.

image

(Very high amplitude Jet Stream wave pattern with strong ridge in the west, very deep trough digging through Eastern Canada and the Eastern US, an a return to the strong ridge pattern over the North Atlantic. Image source: Earth Nullschool. Data source: Global Forecast System Model.)

Such a powerful hot-cold dipole in the atmosphere results in extraordinary atmospheric instability. The deep trough alone would be enough to send storm after storm hurtling toward the Northeast US. Storms born of a fury of Arctic cold coming into collision with oceanic moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic.

It is a pattern that has been fixed in place for a month running. One that has delivered storm after powerful storm to the US northeast along a screaming storm track. And one that has slammed these storms into an unprecedented wall of warmth and moisture.

For not only have warm air flows invaded the Arctic resulting in a highly anomalous displacement of cold air southward for an extended period of time. But ocean warmth in a region of the Atlantic just off Boston has provided extraordinary fuel for these storms once they arrive.

For we have observed sea surface temperatures just off Boston in the range of 8-11 C above average for most of the months of January and February:

image

(Sea surface temperature anomaly map by Earth Nullschool. Note the highlighted region shows an extreme temperature departure of 11.1 degrees Celsius above average. Data Source: Global Forecast Systems Model.)

For reference, a sea surface temperature anomaly of 2 C or higher is considered to be a rather strong departure. The 11.1 C anomaly in the above image is, for lack of a better term, simply off the charts. In rough translation, this amounts to surface waters in the range of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit only about 200 miles or so off the Massachusetts coastline. A coastline regularly seeing temperatures in the range of 0-28 degrees F. The result is a 40-70 degree temperature departure over a very short distance. By itself, this extreme temperature differential would be an amazing storm generator. But the differential alone only tells half the story.

The other half is a powerful explosion of moisture off this much warmer than normal water. A massive mushrooming of moisture just off the coast. And when this very heavy bank of moisture collides directly with displaced onrush of cold and dry air, the amount of snow that is squeezed out can be staggering.

Record-breaking staggering. 8 feet for Boston in one month staggering.

As Michael Mann so saliently noted, you’d have to be a physics denier to not understand the role of ocean warming in either the warm air invasion of the Arctic in the Oceanic zones, the related displacement of cold air over the eastern half of the North American continent, or the fueling of extraordinarily powerful winter storms along the Northeastern Coast of the US.

And to this point, I leave you with the equally salient thoughts of Bill Nye from his twitter feed:

Bill Nye

“Would this guy get fired, if mentioned, just mentioned a possible connection, to ?” — Bill Nye.

Links:

Michael Mann and Bill Nye Want You to Know Boston’s Epic Snowfall is Tied to Global Warming

Global Forecast Systems Model

Earth Nullschool

Bill Nye’s Twitter feed

Dr Michael E. Mann’s Twitter feed

Scientific hat-tip to Dr. Jennifer Francis

Hat tip to Eric Thurston

 

 

 

 

 

Warm Arctic Winds Rip Polar Vortex in Half, Blast East Face of Greenland Ice Sheet

Last night, at around 9 PM Eastern Time, a broad region just south of the North Pole was undergoing an extraordinary warm-up. Temperatures along the 37 W Longitude line just 80 miles south of the pole had surged to 33 degrees Fahrenheit. A reading warmer than a region of central Michigan thousands of miles to the south but running over an area of sea ice more accustomed to -5 F or lower temperatures during the great dark of the December night.

image

(Knife of warm air drives above freezing temperatures to within 80 miles of the North Pole on December 1 of 2014. Image source: Earth Nullschool. Data Source: UCAR, OSCAR, NCEP.)

It was the much warmer than normal core of an intense and anomalous Arctic heat surge. One that blasted up over Svalbard and flooded into the high Arctic. Meeting with a similar but weaker air surge to the south, both surface and upper layers of the Arctic Ocean atmosphere hosted a joining of rivers of warm air.

This warm air double envelopment neatly sliced the polar vortex in twain. The remnant cold air cores at the Jet Stream level slipped down over both the Canadian Archipelago and Central Asia. Leaving open the lane for warm, maritime air to surge over the Arctic Ocean region.

image

(Jet Stream level atmospheric circulation shows polar vortex cut in two with one circulation over the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and the other over Yamal, Siberia — scene to the freakish methane blowholes earlier this year. Image source: Earth Nullschool. Data Source: UCAR, OSCAR, NCEP.)

It is a pattern of negative phase Arctic Oscillation (AO) — featuring a warming in the central Arctic which flushes the cold air out. But this ripping of the polar vortex in half is also related to polar amplification due to the human heat forcing. In which the high Arctic has warmed dramatically in comparison with the rest of the globe. So the heat anomalies we see now are much higher than they would otherwise be, with abnormal warmth remaining even into a positive phase of the AO (which we may see a bit more of, should El Nino finally emerge).

It’s a feature also related to a warming of the upper atmosphere at stratospheric levels. Such Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) events can often be associated with the kind of polar vortex split we are seeing now. And, from recent observations, we find temperatures over the Arctic Stratosphere are now in record range.

According to weather blogger, Matthew Holliday:

Even though I wouldn’t categorize this as a *sudden* stratospheric event as of yet, the warming that has already occurred will likely have effects by middle December. In fact, the warming that has occurred is currently at record levels for this time of year.

Recent scientific studies have also indicated an increasing prevalence of SSW events as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise.

Extraordinary Arctic Warming

For much of November, readings in the Arctic as a whole have ranged from +1.5 to +2.5 degrees Celsius above the global average. A region featuring the highest global anomalies in a world that just saw its hottest ten months in the past 136 years, and probably its hottest ten months in many thousands of years. A region well known for its cold — but warming far faster than almost anywhere else.

Global anomaly Dec 1

(The Arctic hits an extraordinary early December +3.16 C positive anomaly on the first day of the month amidst a flood of warm air from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Image source: The University of Maine. Data Source: Global Forecast System Model.)

Today, beset by this abnormal heat, overall Arctic departures hit 3.16 C above the already hotter than normal 1979 to 2000 average. Regions within this warm zone showed readings well above 36 F higher than average. A kind of winter Arctic heatwave. One that will keep worsening as the human heat forcing continues its terrible advance.

Near Freezing Temperatures Over Zachariae Glacier During Meteorological Winter

Much of the added heat expanded through the region between the North Pole and Greenland, wrapping in a surface circulation that has tended more and more to envelop the frozen isle, Baffin Bay and the accompanying Canadian Archipelago.

image

(Warm front off Atlantic Ocean featuring blow torch like wind flow over the Zahcariae Glacier collides with Greenland, pushes far into Arctic Ocean. Image source: Earth Nullschool. Data source: Data Source: UCAR, OSCAR, NCEP.)

This morning, some of that circulation and its entrapped warm air flow rode up over the East Coast of Greenland, surging over the ocean-facing cliffs of the Zachariae Glacier. Pushing temperatures to almost above freezing in a period where much deeper cold should be firmly established.

A great flood of abnormal winter warmth and moisture. The leading edge of a flow of ocean and atmospheric heat driven all too obviously by human warming.

Links:

UCAR

James Hansen: If It’s Warm, Why is it So Damned Cold?

Earth Nullschool

University of Maine

OSCAR

NCEP

Global Forecast System Model

National Climate Data Center

Changes in Northern Hemisphere Stratospheric Variability Under Increased CO2 Concentrations

Hat Tip to Wili

The Polar Circulation is So Wrecked That Surface Winds Now Rotate Around Greenland

In a normal world, during a normal late fall and winter, cold air would concentrate over a thick northern ice pack near the North Pole. The sea ice would be dense enough, unbroken enough, to lock a warmer ocean away beneath. The cold air core would be encircled by strong winds — both in the upper levels and at the surface. An atmospheric cold zone that would tend to be pretty steady, taking strong weather anomalies to drive it off a firm base of chill air.

In today’s world, the Arctic Ocean is warming. Connected to an also warming world ocean, the waters provide a launching platform for the added, human-driven heat. The surface sea ice is thus far thinner — containing less than 50 percent of the volume it boasted during the late 1970s. And, during this time of year, an extraordinary overburden of greenhouse gasses (primarily CO2 and Methane) continuously traps extra long wave heat radiation throughout the dark winter night.

All that extra heat gathering over the Arctic Ocean makes the cold air core far less stable. More and more frequently it is driven from its previous haunt near the North Pole. A climate change refugee looking for a cold air pool as temporary asylum from the inexorably building heat.

To the south, the still solid but increasingly endangered ice sheets of Greenland provide, perhaps, the most likely haven. So as the high Arctic heats up, the cold air re-centers over Greenland. And the result is a rather odd configuration in which atmospheric currents begin to displace southward, encircling Greenland rather than the polar regions. A disruption that results in a ripple of changes throughout the Northern Hemisphere — including serious alterations to the storm track and a far greater likelihood of the extreme weather producing planetary wave patterns.

Observational Support for Cutting-Edge Theories

The above described scenario draws from a number of cutting edge scientific theories. The first is Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren theory — in which a combination of polar amplification and enhanced Greenland melt drive severe changes to the Northern Hemisphere storm track, resulting in nightmarish weather. The second is the enhanced planetary wave theory, proffered by Dr. Jennifer Francis, in which Arctic warming drives severe changes and distentions in the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream. The two theories are related in that Arctic warming, in both cases, is a primary driver of extraordinary climate and weather changes.

Thus far, we have seen growing evidence to support these theories, especially Dr. Francis’ theory, as ever since the mid 2000s we have observed an increasing prevalence of weak Jet Streams, strong planetary waves, and powerful meridional flows driving warm air into the polar zone, but also driving cold air out. Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren theory got a boost last year as a southward shifting cold air circulation ignited a powerful North Atlantic storm track that set off the roughest winter on record for England and the UK.

This year, we see similar weather phenomena related to these theories. The inundation of Buffalo with one year’s worth of snowfall in just two days was driven by a powerful planetary wave pattern directly associated with polar warming. A similar planetary wave is, today, threatening to dump more than a foot of snow across regions of the US Mid-Atlantic through New England. A January type winter storm on Thanksgiving that was preceded by 70 degree temperatures.

Not What Our Weather Models are Used to — The Greenland-Centered Cold Air Core

Today, we have yet one more pattern emerging that was predicted by these theories — polar air circulation centering around Greenland:

image

(Surface air flow encirclements of Greenland similar to conditions observed above were highly anomalous during the 20th Century. During the 21st Century, such a storm enhancing pattern is likely to become much more prevalent as an up-shot of human-driven polar warming. In the above shot, note the low spinning off Spain and heading toward Morocco off an anomalous and persistent dip in the Jet resulting from this abnormal pattern. More floods potentially on the way for that already hard-hit region. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

In the above image, provided by Earth Nullschool and collecting data from US based global climate observations and models, we find warm air from the subtropical Atlantic being driven northward by first a mid-ocean high pressure system and then by a powerful low raging away off the southern tip of Greenland. The warm air flow rises north then joins with a continental flow rising off of Europe to cross the North Atlantic and the Barents Sea. Traveling along a cold frontal boundary sweeping out from Greenland, the warm air current surges up over Svalbard and toward the North Pole.

This warm air flow drives temperatures in a region within a couple hundred miles of the North Pole to 30.5 degrees Fahrenheit — warmer than current temperatures in central Pennsylvania and well over 36 degrees above average for this time of year in the far, far north:

image

(Svalbard and regions near the North Pole heat up as an extraordinary warm air wedge drives far, far north. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

This extraordinarily warm air then becomes entrained in another low north of Greenland before following a polar air flow driving down over the Canadian Archipelago and Hudson Bay. A powerful north-south flow drawing over Baffin Bay into the strong low south of Greenland closes the loop. Thus we find Greenland encircled by winds, its cold air core far offset from the pole as the region over the Arctic Ocean warms.

As we can see in the surface wind map (top map), the surface air flow is running a complete circuit ’round Greenland. The result is that the cold air core driving NH atmospheric circulation at the surface is now centered over Greenland and Baffin Bay. It is displaced many hundreds of miles south of the North Pole. And the North Pole itself has become over-run by a warm air flow at the periphery of the cold air circulation’s center.

Upper level wind patterns are similarly disrupted with a cold upper air low churning away over Baffin Bay and a second cold core circulating over Central Siberia. In both cases, in the upper levels near the Jet and at the surface, the region of the Arctic Ocean is disassociated from the cold air centers and related atmospheric circulation. A set of conditions that has come to very well resemble those predicted by Dr. Francis, or worse, look more like a precursor to Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren scenario.

In this case, for today, the weather observations match the warming-induced pattern just as predicted.

Mainstream Weather Coverage Abused by Changing Climates (I’m Looking at You, Weather Channel)

Mainstream meteorologists, including those at the Weather Channel, continue to cover current weather as if it is occurring under traditional conditions while only providing sideways references to cutting edge science related to observed atmospheric warming. A new subset of the science that provides much greater insight into what may actually be happening and is a very useful tool for weather prediction in the currently altered and radically changing climate state.

Unless such meteorologists begin paying attention to the anomalous changes that are plainly visible in the observational data (changes that I have no trouble finding and identifying after reading the science provided by Hansen and Francis) they will be left behind by events that are increasingly dissonant to their current institutional understanding. A cautionary tale that European meteorologists, baffled by failures of climate models to predict record floods from training of low pressure systems into Morrocco off a persistent and anomalous dip in the Jet Stream this week, can bear testament to.

Like geologists who failed to take into account for plate tectonics theory in the mid 20th Century, meteorologists adhering to old weather prediction methods risk becoming outmoded and less relevant to current, and rapidly evolving, climate realities. The new global warming science both bears out in the observational data and in its usefulness to predict extreme events — so, for the sake of accuracy, it needs to be included.

Links and Credits:

The University of Maine

Something Our Weather Models Aren’t Used To

Earth Nullschool

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center

Dr. Jennifer Francis

Dr. James Hansen

Hat Tip to Mark From New England

The Weather Channel’s Weather Geeks (Who Need to Wake up and Smell the Polar Amplification)

Buffalo’s Climate Change Driven Mega Snow-Flood

Earlier this week something rather interesting and disturbing happened to the Jet Stream.

In the extreme northwest, a large heat pool over Alaska and the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean kept temperatures in the range of 10 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit above average. To the south, a powerful super typhoon, gorged on Pacific Ocean waters ranging from 1-2 C hotter than normal, raced into the extratropical region of the Central and Northern Pacific. And to the north and east, the cold core that normally resides over the North Pole began slipping south.

Arctic Anomaly Map

(Massive warm air invasion of the Arctic earlier this week led to a major polar vortex disruption driving cold air out of the Arctic and setting off record snowfall in the region of Buffalo, New York. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

As the supertyphoon’s remnants hit the warm weakness in the Jet Stream near Alaska, it bombed out into a monster extra-tropical low. This kicked warm air even further north, causing a whiplash in the Jet and driving the cold air core south over Canada.

Cold air rocketed down over the relatively warm waters of the Great Lakes. These waters, having soaked up the heat of yet another hotter than average American October and early November, squeezed an epic amount of moisture and storm feeding energy out into the air. Over the past two days, the result was as kind of thundersnow storm that parked itself in one location, dumping foot after foot of snow. By the time the final tally was counted this morning, as much as 8 feet had fallen over Buffalo New York. A record amount never before seen in so short a time span and yet so far ahead of winter.

More than seven deaths, multiple building collapses, a paralyzation of transportation, and extraordinary damages prompted the New York State governor to declare a state of emergency.

Yes, Climate Change Has Put the Weather on Steroids

All these events occurred in the context of a climate increasingly distorted by human-caused warming. The Northern Hemisphere during this week has averaged over 1 degree C hotter than normal. And the Arctic has averaged at around 2.5 degrees C hotter than normal.

In this mix of climate change driven extreme weather soup, that warming Arctic is critical. It provided the weakness in the Jet Stream for a supertyphoon’s remnants to exploit. It provided a wobbly polar vortex all too ready to make another charge south over North America. And the super-hot equatorial waters of the Pacific added yet more energy to this stoked and building climate fire.

Cold Snow to Turn to Warm Flood

But the tale of climate change driven extreme weather isn’t over by a long shot. The cold dipole which drove over the Great Lakes earlier this week was anything but stable. Now, warmth is surging north over the US heartland springing up from the hot pools of the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Pacific. It is producing a warm frontal boundary that is now driving across the US heartland. By Saturday and Sunday, it will dump a warming rain over Buffalo’s 7-8 feet of snowpack.

Temperatures are expected to climb into a much warmer than normal range of 50 degrees F by Saturday. By Sunday, the heat will build to 15-20 degrees above average reaching as high as 60 degrees F in the forecast.

Buffalo Warm Up

(Sunday GFS model forecast shows temperatures at +15 to +20 degrees Fahrenheit above average for the Buffalo region. The added high temperatures are expected to coincide with rainfall and potential major flooding from the melt of a massive 8 feet of snow in some areas. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer. Note that global temperatures in both maps are in the range of 0.39 to 0.51 C above the already hotter than normal 1979 to 2000 average.)

The snow pack is first expected to ripen, then flood away under the rising heat and a half inch to two inches of rainfall. The impact to Buffalo’s infrastructure could again be quite extraordinary. Between 9 and 15 inches worth of liquid water are locked in all that snow. Its sudden release into a landscape of clogged storm drains and choked roads is expected to provide an extraordinary flood risk. And massive piles of snow over buildings collecting more water will increase further risk of building collapse.

As of now, the National Weather Service has posted a Flood Watch — which means extreme conditions may begin in as little as six hours.

Conditions in Context

Radical swings between weather extremes like those experienced by Buffalo this week are exactly the type of climate alterations we would expect as a result of human caused warming. These impacts occur in the context of a world that is now experiencing its hottest year on record globally. A place of increasingly intense droughts, rainfall, and snowfall events. A world in which the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream is increasingly distended as air over the Arctic warms much faster than the rest of the globe.

Such extremes in weather have been predicted by climate scientists to result from human-caused warming. And we are beginning to see the start, the milder outliers, of these predicted extremes set off by the human heat forcing now. Further heightening Arctic warming, or worse, increasing cold water outflows from melting ice sheets over Greenland, will almost certainly set off far more extreme weather than what we are seeing now.

Message to climate change deniers — this serves as a warning to you. Turn back.

Links:

Climate Reanalyzer

National Weather Service Flood Watch

Dr. Jennifer Francis on How Polar Amplification Mangles the Jet Stream

There’s Growing Evidence That Global Warming is Driving Crazy Winters

Flood, Roof Collapse Fears as Snows End for Buffalo

Late October Sees Strong Polar Amplification, Mangled Jet Stream Impacting Much of Antarctica

Globally speaking, it’s a rather hot day.

According to GFS model runs and observational data, the past 24 hour period has shown temperatures in the range of +0.72 C above the already hotter than normal 1979 to 2000 average. A hot day in a hot month that is likely to be among the hottest on record, if not an all-time record-breaker itself.

A couple of days ago, hourly CO2 levels rocketed from 396 ppm to 399.5 ppm. A rather odd and somewhat ominous jump back toward the 400 ppm level at a time of year when atmospheric CO2 should be just starting a slow rebound from lowest ebb. A bottom that this year hit about 395 ppm during mid September. A measure already more than 2.2 ppm above last year’s low. To say the least, an hourly upward swing of 3.5 ppm isn’t exactly normal, especially when one considers the fact that the world hasn’t seen near 400 ppm CO2 levels for about three million years (this year peaked near 403 ppm during late spring).

And all that extra CO2, when combined with other greenhouse gasses, is having an increasingly obvious impact on climate. We see it in the record global average temperatures. We see it in the rising oceans which have come more and more to threaten the cities, lands and isles upon which so many of us reside. We see it in increasing instances of extreme weather around the globe — in the extraordinary and often persistent droughts, floods, storms and wildfires. And we see it in the form of a rather strong temperature amplification at both poles.

Antarctic Amplification

(Global temperature anomaly maps provided by GFS and the University of Maine shows no regions of the world cooler than average with the highest abnormal warm temperature departures concentrated, as usual, at the poles.)

Greenhouse Gasses as Primary Driver of Polar Amplification

Today, the Arctic is 1.60 C above the already hotter than normal 1979 to 2000 average. Meanwhile, the Antarctic boasts the highest departures for any global region at +2.09 C. Taking a closer look at the Antarctic Continent, we find an angry red splotch featuring temperature anomalies in the range of +12 to +20 C above average. A region associated with a tropics-to-pole transfer of airs we’ll discuss more in depth later.

What causes such a powerful and visible polar amplification? In short, it can best be described as the general impact of added greenhouse gasses on the global climate system.

Because most of the sun’s radiation falls on the equatorial regions, temperatures there are governed to a greater degree by direct solar insolation. But move toward the poles where sunlight hits the earth at a much lower angle, if at all, then the impact of the greenhouse effect holds greater sway. There, the ability of a gas like CO2 to trap and re-radiate long wave solar heat radiation can have a rather extraordinary impact.

On an Earth with no atmosphere, the temperature differential between poles and equator, between night and day, would be even more extreme than the variance we see today. But as the atmosphere thickens and the greenhouse gas overburden intensifies, the temperature difference grows less. For Earth’s present climate the temperature difference between the Equator and the Arctic averages about 42 degrees C. For the Antarctic, the average is about 71 degrees C.

On a world like Venus, where a kind of super greenhouse is in force and much of the atmosphere is composed of CO2, there is practically no difference in temperature between the equator and the poles. The reason for this is that greenhouse gasses trap the sun’s long wave radiation and recirculate it around a planetary system. And on Venus, a ray of long wave sunlight that comes in has very little chance to get out. So its heat recirculates many times within Venus’s atmosphere before it finally escapes.

On a place like Earth, where greenhouse gas levels are increasing, we would expect the temperature difference between the equator and the poles to drop as the poles warm faster due to the added impact of the increased greenhouse gasses. And since about the mid 20th Century, this is exactly what we’ve seen.

North Pole to Equator Temperature Difference

South Pole to Equator temperature difference

(Top frame shows North Pole to Equator temperature difference since 1948. Bottom frame shows South Pole to Equator temperature difference from 1948 to 2011. Note the approximate 3 C temperature swing indicating a faster warming at the poles in both graphs. Data is from the NCAR-NCEP reanalysis model.)

Lowering differences in Equator to polar temperature on a warming world also denotes a much faster warming of the polar zones. Hence the term polar amplification.

Now, for the Arctic, polar amplification has also become synonymous with loss of sea ice, loss of snow cover, increased land darkening due to changes in vegetation, and local release of greenhouse gasses via feedbacks from the Arctic environment. Each of these changes has the potential to add increased warming on top of the warming already being driven by global greenhouse gas increase even as such changes likely also drive changes to local and Northern Hemisphere weather. But as important as these additional changes may be, the larger driver remains an increase in global greenhouse gases driven by human emissions.

How Polar Amplification Drives Changes to the Jet Stream

In the end, such a polar amplification is a strong driver for changes to the world’s weather. Primarily, by reducing the difference in temperature between the poles and the Equator, we tend to see weaknesses forming in the circumpolar wind field known as the Jet Stream. At times, the Jet will slow and meander, allowing for the formation of ridges that extend far into polar zones and for troughs that dip deep into the middle and lower latitudes. Rather than a west-to-east flow of wind and weather, such a shift generates more of an Equator-to-pole flow:

image

(Triple tendrils — meridional flows converge on Antarctica. Note the massive highs sitting in the ridge systems driving the poleward wind flows. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

And today we see two large north to south flows issuing from the 20 degree south latitude region, traversing thousands of miles of ocean in a poleward flood and terminating at the great ice sheets of Antarctica in the region of 70 to 75 south latitude.

Note that the flow originating off the west coast of South America terminates at the vulnerable West Antarctic Ice Sheet — a region that has been warming at an extraordinary pace of 0.25 to 0.5 C each decade. The second flow, originating from the South Atlantic and terminating over East Antarctica is heavily involved in the +12-20 degree C temperature anomalies ongoing there today.

Looking at these massive flows of air and the related spikes in temperature anomalies, it is easy to become confused over the issue of cause and effect. But it is simple to recall if you understand that first, added greenhouse gasses warmed the pole which in turn weakened the Jet Stream, which in turn allowed an amplification of the north-south meridional flow transporting yet more heat into this southern polar region.

For the southern polar region, today, we see some extraordinary high temperature departures for mid-to-late spring. At this time, polar amplification should be fading as more sunlight streams in. And yet we have a still strong positive temperature anomaly.

And as for the northern polar zone with its numerous additional polar amplification vectors, we shall see to what degree, if any, a potentially emerging El Nino tamps down the extraordinary meridional flows and polar vortex disruptions seen during just this past year’s freakish winter of 2013-2014.

Links:

University of Maine

NCAR-NCEP reanalysis model

Earth Nullschool

The Keeling Curve

Polar Amplification

Rapid Arctic Warming and Wacky Weather — Are They Linked?

Arctic Emergency: Top Scientists Explain How Arctic Warming is Wrecking Our Weather and Pushing World To Rapidly Cross Climate Tipping Points

(Must-watch video that includes direct observation and analysis of Arctic tipping points provided by a number of the world’s top climate scientists.)

You don’t want to mess with Arctic warming. It’s an engine of destruction straining to be set loose. A mad burning beast of a thing. One whose fires we are now in the process of stoking to dangerous extremes.

Don’t believe me? Then just listen to top scientists like Dr. Jennifer Francis, Dr. Jason Box, Dr. Jeff Masters, Dr. Natalia Shakhova, Dr. Igor Semiletov, Dr. Peter Wadhams, Dr. James Hansen, Dr. Steve Vavrus, Dr. Ron Prinn, Dr. Kevin Schaefer, Dr. Nikita Zimov, Dr. Jorien Vonk, and a growing list of many, many more (also see above video).

An Arctic that Appears on the Verge of Large Carbon Emissions Adding to an Already Dangerous Human Warming

At issue is the fact that the Arctic is very sensitive to global heat forcing. And any small warming there can rapidly trigger a number of feedbacks that generate more warming for the Arctic and the globe. These feedbacks include but are not limited to:

Snow and sea ice melt resulting in darker surfaces absorbing more sunlight during summer times, a warming global ocean system transporting a high percentage of the added heat north and southward along the ocean bottom and at the surface, rising temperatures in the Arctic slowing and increasing the waviness of the Jet Stream which generates more south to north transfer of temperate and tropical warmth into the Arctic together with a greater export of Arctic cold to the lower latitudes, added greenhouse gasses resulting in much warmer Arctic winters during the times of darkness when greenhouse gas trapping of long wave radiation is most efficient, and an increasing release of carbon from stores sequestered in the Arctic for millions of years, adding to the overall greenhouse gas burden in this, very sensitive, region.

Many of these feedbacks and resulting weather alterations are now in play.

We have observed sea ice reductions of up to 80 percent in total volume losses together with major snow cover reductions since the 1970s. We have observed substantial and growing releases of methane from the Arctic environment in the form of emissions in the region of the submerged permafrost on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. We have witnessed strange methane emissions emerging in the smoke of major wildfires that have spread over large regions of the Arctic during summer. We’ve seen very troubling emissions in the form of methane eruptions coming from the permafrost and possibly reaching as deep as the methane clathrate layer beneath the permafrost. We’ve seen increasing methane releases from permafrost melt lakes. And we’ve seen increasing CO2 emissions from the dry decay of permafrost and from the direct burning of permafrost and boreal forests by Arctic wildfires.

Trio of Siberian Wildfires August 3, 2014

(Trio of massive Siberian Wildfires raging on August 3, 2014. Burn scar size ranges from 90 to 350+ square miles. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

In total, according to scientists in the above video, under an unmitigated and continuously rising heat forcing from human greenhouse gas emissions, the Arctic could release 120 gigatons of carbon or more by the end of this century. Given that humans now dump 13 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, the Arctic emission would be like adding another decade of current human emissions on top of an already rapidly warming system. Even worse, a significant portion of the Arctic  carbon emission could appear in the form of methane — a gas that traps heat far more rapidly than CO2, equaling a heat forcing that is about 60 times CO2 by volume.

A Call From Scientists For Rapid Mitigation

It is important to note that, though strange and terrifying as they may be, current Arctic feedbacks and related carbon emissions are minor when compared to the changes we will unlock if we continue to release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Under BAU, it is possible that we will set in place a regime of Arctic carbon emissions that is equal to 30% or more of the current human greenhouse gas emission. This sizeable release would likely then last for centuries until much of the Arctic carbon store of 1,500+ gigatons locked in permafrost and untold other gigatons locked in clathrates were exhausted. Such releases would result in a mini-runaway that could lock in dangerous hothouse climate conditions for millions of years to come.

Due to the extreme nature of the current situation, some damage is now unavoidable, as we probably hit at least 2-3 C warming long term even if human greenhouse gas emissions suddenly halt. But major damage can still be prevented through direct and coordinated action on the part of nations.  For this reason, climate scientists are calling for an 80% or greater reduction in near term human greenhouse gas emissions. A strong direct urging from some of the best scientists in the world and one that we should take very seriously as it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Arctic is now in the process of crossing a number of extremely dangerous tipping points.

I implore you to watch the above video and to do everything in your power to support policies that rapidly draw down the human greenhouse gas emission. Our timeframe window for effective response is rapidly closing and we need swift, direct action now.

Links:

Arctic Emergency — Scientists Speak

The Arctic Methane Monster Exhales

LANCE-MODIS

 

 

 

 

Winter of 2013-2014 Sees Most Extreme Dipole on Record: How a Strong Emerging El Nino Conspired With Climate Change to Ignite Record Drought in California and Collapse the Polar Vortex

Dipole. It’s a word often used among meteorologists and climate scientists. But what does it mean?

In weather terms we can simply think of it as this: one side hot, one side cold. So, as a basic principle, it’s pretty direct. But in a world where extremes between hot and cold are becoming more intense, in North America which has just experienced its most extreme dipole anomaly since record keeping began in 1960, it’s also something that’s important to understand as it relates to ongoing human-caused climate change.

For a recent blockbuster scientific paper by Dr. Simon Wang and associates and published in Geophysical Research Letters has now linked this extreme temperature differential, related polar vortex collapse events, and the California drought with both ongoing physical changes to the Earth System due to human caused climate change and to the first rumblings of a monster El Nino in the Pacific.

Envisioning a Dipole Pushed into An Extreme Form by Climate Change

But to understand how an excessively extreme dipole relates to the historic events of the winter of 2013-2014, it helps to open up one’s imagination. It helps to describe the ground-breaking information provided by Dr. Wang’s new paper in descriptive terms. It helps to, at first, envision a wave. Then to imagine the up-slope of the wave forming a hot, red shape. Now imagine the down-slope forming a cold, blue shape. Now think of this wave growing more intense, extending further in both its up-slope and in its down-slope. Growing hotter on the up-slope side and comparatively colder on the down-slope side.

Polar Vortex Collapse January 19

(GFS Model summary of Polar Vortex Collapse event on January 19, 2014 shows 850 mb temperatures over the Eastern US colder than the same temperatures over parts of Greenland and the Arctic Ocean. 850 mb temperatures over St. Augustine, FL are the same as 850 mb temperatures over central Greenland. Anomalies on the hot side of the dipole in the Arctic hit +40 degrees Fahrenheit in some places.  Anomalies on the cold side of the dipole hit more than -35 degrees F in some places. Note the twin, dense high pressure systems sitting sentinel just off the California Coast and deflecting storms north into Alaska. Image source: NOAA/GFS.)

Having established the wave form and related temperature extremes, lay the shape over North America and adjacent Pacific Ocean. The up-slope covers the Eastern Pacific, Alaska, a section of the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic, Western Canada and the Western US. The down-slope swings from the eastern side of the Beaufort, on in through Central and Eastern Canada and bisects the US diagonally from the Dakotas to the Gulf Coast east of Texas.

Now let’s envision this wave as a flow of upper level air called the Jet Stream and let’s think about the various atmospheric aspects that feed it. Looking west, we happen upon a very warm pool of water in the Western Pacific east of the Philippines. This warm pool is the source of an El Nino that will likely occur within one years time. A heat pocket given added intensity by both rising atmospheric temperatures and strong winds transferring that added energy into the vast Pacific Ocean. The heat waits, wanting to spread out across the Pacific surface in an energetic return to the air. But, for now, it simmers in its deep pool, providing energy for the powerful dipole we’ve just described.

The heat from this warm pool radiates into the atmosphere creating lift. Further north, a cold pocket is driven south by another strong atmospheric wave pattern over the Asian continent. The cold air pocket runs south over Japan. The hot and the cold difference generates a very strong upper level synoptic (horizontal form weather patterns stretching more than 1,000 kilometers) wind pattern that stretches all the way across the Pacific Ocean.

The winds run southwest to northeast until they encounter the hot bulge of our already described dipole over the Eastern Pacific near the US west coast and Canada. This warm current turned the already rapid winds due north where they rushed up over Alaska and into a sea ice pack far weaker than in decades past. A sea ice sheet gradually thinning, breaking up, and venting heat from a warming Arctic Ocean below. And so these, already strong, winds were not turned back by the now much weaker cold until they had driven far, far into the Arctic Ocean (and it is here that we must give a hat tip to Dr. Jennifer Francis, who finds her predictions regarding sea ice loss and high amplitude Jet Stream waves again validated).

Polar Vortex Ripped in Half

(Upper level wind pattern on January 23, 2014 shows a polar vortex that has essentially been ripped in half by the warm side of the west coast dipole and the high amplitude Jet Stream wave forming over top of it. Image source: University of Washington.)

Now imagine a strong dome of high pressure forming in the wake of this powerful and ongoing wind flow, sheltered and growing ever stronger on the hot side of the dipole. Imagine it blocking the path of storms, even as it concentrated heat and warmth. Imagine California receiving 1/4 or less of its typical winter rainfall as a result. A most recent and extreme insult to years of drought forcing authorities to ration water in many places.

Now return to that strong wind finally being turned south somewhere in the far, far north, in the Beaufort Sea just south of the North Pole. Then imagine these now cold-laden winds rushing south. Running over Hudson Bay and eastern Canada. Roaring over the Great Lakes and carrying with them a cyclone of cold Arctic air that should have remained in the far north. The polar vortex that should have stayed over places like Svalbard but instead collapsed under the warm wind flow and shifted far south to places like Toronto or Chicago or Detroit or Washington DC.

Now at last imagine another synoptic pattern as the Arctic air of the polar vortex encounters the warmth of the Gulf Stream. This pattern is laden with powerful storms that bomb out over the UK again and again, resulting in the stormiest winter for that island nation in over 200 years.

And here we have the dipole of the winter of 2013 and 2014. A west coast that was hot, hotter than usual all the way from California to the far north of Alaska and an East Coast that from Canada to the Gulf Coast became the repository for cold, cold Arctic air that was shoved south as the polar vortex collapsed down the steep face of the one of the largest and longest lasting Jet Stream waves on record.

(Dr. Francis explains how polar amplification results in higher amplitude Jet Stream wave patterns.)

Dipole. One side hot. One side cold. But, in this case, in the case of the winter of 2013-2014, it’s a historic and anomalous dipole. A freak born of the climate change we’ve caused mixing up with the Pacific Ocean heat of a rising El Nino. A record hot, dry winter for the US West that ignites wildfires in winter and forces the government to ration California water resources. A severe dry spell that closes farms and drives US food prices up by 15%. A record cold, stormy winter in the Eastern US and a series of super-intense storms screaming across the North Atlantic to submerge Somerset and rip massive chunks out of a rocky UK coastline.

This clear picture of a climate-change caused event was this week provided through the groundbreaking new research by Dr. Wang and fellows. These top scientists engaged climate models and analyzed past records to find the culprits of the weather extremes we witnessed during this past winter. And what they found was a very high correlation in the models with the extreme dipole over North America and the Arctic, an oncoming El Nino, and climate change driven impacts.

For not only was this year’s dipole the most extreme on record, it was also likely made far more extreme by an emerging Monster El Nino acting in concert with severe global-warming related reductions in Arctic sea ice cover, increases in Pacific Ocean heat and atmospheric moisture content, and related changes to the upper level air flows of the Northern Hemisphere polar Jet Stream.

Links:

Probable Causes of the Abnormal Ridge Accompanying the 2013-2014 California Drought, ENSO Precursor and Anthropogenic Warming Footprint

NOAA/GFS

University of Washington

Read Further Excellent Reporting on the Wang Report Here:

California Drought/Polar Vortex Jet Stream Pattern Linked to Global Warming

Bombshell Study Ties Epic California Drought ‘Frigid East’ To Manmade Climate Change

Large and Growing List of Scientific Studies Linking Human Climate Change to Current Weather Extremes (hat tip to Weather Underground)

Changing the Face of Mother Nature

The Seasonal Atmospheric Response to Projected Sea Ice Loss in the Late 21rst Century

Evidence Linking Arctic Amplification to Extreme Weather in the Mid Latitudes

Influence of Low Arctic Sea Ice Minima on Anomalously Cold Eurasian Winters

Impact of Sea Ice Cover Changes on the Northern Hemisphere Winter Circulation

Impact of Declining Arctic Sea Ice on Winter Snowfall

Large Scale Atmospheric Circulation Changes Associated with the Recent Loss of Arctic Sea Ice

A Link Between Reduced Kara-Barents Sea Ice and Cold Winter Extremes Over Northern Continents

Northern Hemisphere Winter Snow Anomalies

Impact of Projected Future Sea Ice Reduction on Extratropical Storminess and the NAO

Cold Winter Extremes in Northern Continents Linked to Arctic Sea Ice Loss

Precipitation Shifts Over Western North America as a Result of Declining Sea Ice Cover

Disappearing Arctic Sea Ice Reduces Available Water in the American West

Interdecadal Connection Between Arctic Temperature and Summer Precipitation Over the Yangtze River Valley in the CMIP5 Historical Simulations

Potential Impacts of the Arctic on Interannual and Interdecadal Summer Precipitation in China

Influence of Arctic Sea Ice on European Summer Precipitation

On the Relationship Between Winter Sea Ice and Summer Atmospheric Circulation over Eurasia

(Partial list, view the rest here)

 

 

Dr Jennifer Francis and the Year-Long Blocking Pattern

Last year, on March 30th, I wrote this:

Over the past decade, an increased prominence of blocking patterns has emerged. These events happen when the polar jet stream gets stuck in large meanders. These meanders result in a long persistence of weather for regions affected by these blocking patterns. New papers by Jennifer Francis and other polar researchers last year linked the increasing occurrence of these new blocking patterns to an erosion of Arctic sea ice…

Low pressure systems keep forming over the Bering and Okhotsk seas. Warmer air temps keep invading the American and Canadian west. The eastern part of the North American continent sees a continuous colder air invasion from the Arctic. The Arctic remains much warmer than average…

I may have well written the same thing today. For the weather pattern is mostly unaltered.

Blocking Pattern February 24

(High amplitude blocking pattern plainly visible over the US and Canadian West along with associated trough over the Central and Eastern US in the February 24 Jet Stream model. Image source: University of Washington.)

In fact, if anything, this winter only saw its intensification with numerous polar vortex disruption events, a vicious Arctic heat anomaly that featured and Alaskan thaw in January and Sea Ice setting new record lows for the month of February, and an extraordinary western drought leading to a collapse in California farming and a 10-15 percent hike in prices at US grocery stores.

For a blocking pattern to have persisted for such a long time is somewhat unprecedented. According to the standard definition of blocks (what I’m referring to as blocking patterns) the systems generally tend to last for days or weeks. The most powerful of blocks, like the Bermuda High, tend to last, at most, for a season. But this West Coast and Pacific block has now remained in place for nearly a year. A more solid validation of Dr. Jennifer Francis’ hypothesis — that sea ice melt can result in large Jet Stream meanders and ‘stuck’ weather patterns — is difficult to find.

Dr. Francis, writing for Yale 360 in 2012 queried:

Does it seem as though your weather has become increasingly “stuck” lately? Day after day of cold, rain, heat, or blue skies may not be a figment of your imagination. While various oceanic and atmospheric patterns such as El Niño, La Niña, and the North Atlantic Oscillation have been blamed for the spate of unusual weather recently, there’s now a new culprit in the wind: Arctic amplification. Directly related to sea-ice loss and earlier snowmelt in the Far North, it is affecting the jet stream around the Northern Hemisphere, with potentially far-reaching effects on the weather.

If we were to look for further validation, we might point to a period of storminess of epic intensity that re-shaped England’s coastline, tossed multi-ton boulders about as if they were toys, wrecked rail lines, and dumped so much rain over the English countryside that aquifers began erupting from out of the ground. Since mid December England has suffered its most intense and extended period of stormy weather ever on record. An ongoing disaster that has caused the government to re-consider all its previous assumptions about storm preparedness and should be causing it to reconsider its fossil fuel use as well.

UK House surrounded by floods

(UK home surrounded by floods. Image source: WTOP.)

For if anyone would say their weather seemed stuck, it would probably be the, still soggy, British. And perhaps those brave souls will provide some validation for Francis’ hypothesis and the predictive power it contains for any who dare to wield it.

Earlier this winter, noting that the shape of the Jet Stream hadn’t changed much since early 2013 and that the Pacific block still remained in place, I penned an article entitled: Winter 2013-2014 — Sea Ice Loss Locks Jet Stream into Severe Winter Storm Pattern for Much of US. The article still receives a remarkable flow of traffic, probably due to the fact that is was predictive of a set of conditions that are ongoing now, 70 days after it was written. And to whom do I owe the ability to generate such an insight? Why the author of the theory herself — Dr. Jennifer Francis.

Simply put, she predicted the weather would probably be extreme and that it would probably end up stuck. And so it has for at least three years running now. Don’t believe me? Just look at the US over the past three years. 2012 featured a drought that drove Mississippi river traffic into mud banks and wrecked a huge swath of the US corn crop before giving way to major flooding and heavy precipitation events that lasted long into 2013. The drought retreated westward where, by 2014, a ravaged California cut off all water to farmers. Meanwhile, the Eastern and Central US suffers a string of weather extremes that include swings in temperature of greater than fifty degrees over the course of just a few days, major winter storm events, flash melts, followed by flash freezes and tornadoes over snow.

Dr. Kenneth E. Kunkel, research professor for NOAA’s National Climate Data Center observed that the occurrence of extreme weather events for the US Midwest had increased by 40 percent over the past 20 years stating:

The number of extreme precipitation events in the Midwest has been increasing over the last 20 years, which is consistent with what we would expect from climate change, which has caused increased amounts of water vapor in the atmosphere. While the heavy snow of this winter is primarily a consequence of the persistent storm track, it may have been enhanced by the increasing amounts of water vapor in the atmosphere.

And this leads us nicely back to how climate change is currently wrecking the world’s weather — by weakening the Jet Stream and by amplifying the hydrological cycle. Both instances we have seen in glaring relief over the past few years of very extreme weather. Dr. Francis, in her own research found that Jet Stream winds over the US had weakened by as much as 20% during the period of 1948 to 2010. A significant reduction in its own right:

francis_amplification

(Slowing of 500 mb winds from 1948 to 2010. Image source: Weather Underground.)

I bring up these instances and proofs to show, at least in the context of currently ongoing weather, that Dr. Francis’ claims have born out. Some scientists disagree, however, and appear to be using their clout to shut down what is now a useful tool for extreme weather prediction. And this is a sad event, because the climate state in which Dr. Francis’ predictions hold true probably won’t last for more than a few decades. The weather will certainly remain extreme. But by the time polar amplification has pushed the ice sheets to swiftly melt and human warming has pushed the tropics into a phase of rapid heating, the Jet Stream is likely to again intensify even as it re-centers around Greenland and the North Atlantic. Such changes will probably bring an entirely different set of weather concerns.

But, for now, as the northern polar region amplifies, Dr. Francis’ predictions bear out remarkably well. And this is as obvious as the daily weather report, awkward explanations of why the polar vortex collapsed so many times this year or why the Jet Stream is running so far north over Alaska aside…

Links:

Linking Weird Weather to Rapid Warming in the Arctic

Climate Change or Just the Weather: Experts Sound Off

Block (meteorology)

Dr. Jeff Masters: Our Extreme Weather Arctic Changes to Blame?

Arctic Warming, Extreme Weather Link Unclear

 

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.

Links:

NOAA

University of Washington

Svalbard Weather Forecast, Weather Underground

Arctic Ice Graphs

Arctic Heat Wave to Rip Polar Vortex in Half

Arctic ‘Heat Wave’ to Rip Polar Vortex in Half, Shatter Alaska’s All-Time Record High for January?

62 Degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the all time record high for anywhere in the state of Alaska for the month of January. 57 Degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the temperature measured earlier this week in southern Alaska.

And forecasts call for warmer weather from Friday through Monday…

Across Alaska, temperatures are as much a 30 degrees above average for this time of year. This record winter warmth has pushed Alaska’s average temperature, according to reports from Anchorage, to 24 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, the lower 48, hundreds of miles to the south, is experiencing average temperatures of 22 degrees Fahrenheit. Though 24 degrees is not typically seen as a heat wave, readings in the upper 50s and lower 60s for Alaska in January may as well be. If these same temperature extremes were occurring during summer, some parts of Alaska would be experiencing a 90+ degree scorcher.

Mangled Jet Stream, Anomalous 10 Month Blocking Pattern to Blame

What we are witnessing is what amounts to a ten month long warm air invasion of the Arctic, with Alaska at ground zero. Human-caused global warming has resulted in an amplification of polar temperatures well above the typical average. Now the region is experiencing readings that range of 15-30 degrees warmer than normal.

This massive temperature increase (also associated with a reduction of land and sea ice) is causing a weakening in the polar Jet Stream which is allowing more warm air to invade the Arctic from the south. Early last spring, a weakness in the Jet resulted in a powerful and extraordinarily persistent blocking pattern forming over Alaska. Warm air flooded continuously up and over Alaska, occasionally penetrating deep into the Arctic Ocean region. Heat wave after heat wave impacted Alaska, which set numerous all-time record high temperatures during the summer of 2013.

This anomalous heat flooded in and spilled out around the Arctic Circle, disgorging so much hot air that the term ‘Arctic Heat Wave’ became common parlance. Now, this historic and extraordinary pattern has continued for 1o months running. A kind of persistence that may well give new meaning to the term blocking pattern.

south to north weather pattern Alaska

(Image source: NASA)

The wave pattern stretches so high into the upper latitudes that what we are seeing is weather systems more often rise up from the south and travel northward over Alaska and into the Arctic, than proceed in their typical east-west progression.
The west-east weather train is broken. And a strange south-north train from equator to Arctic is instead set in place.

In the above image sequence, provided by NASA, the heat and associated moisture flow all the way from the equatorial region near Hawaii, up over thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean waters before flooding on through Alaska and into the high Arctic. The extraordinarily powerful and persistent blocking pattern has linked the deep tropics to the high Arctic in unprecedented and anomalous fashion. Especially when one considers that the current pattern has lasted for almost an entire year.

This it the kind of extreme weather pattern that Dr. Jennifer Francis warned about. The kind of pattern Dr. Jeff Masters continues to point out in his cutting edge blog — Weather Underground. In my view, we ignore Dr. Francis and Dr. Masters at our risk. Their observations hold true to what is happening now and they are very useful tools for predicting the weather of a world in which human global warming has now become the primary driver of the world’s climate. Without the actual and ongoing context that is human warming, the few meteorologists still associated with climate change deniers scramble to find the increasingly rare analogs in past climate that match today’s extreme weather. But there is no analog to warmest ever temperatures in Alaska and polar temperatures that are now hotter than they were at any time over at least the past 44,000 years. And there is certainly no analog to CO2 levels higher than they’ve been at any time during the past 4.5 million years.

For this is the disrupted Jet Stream pattern not only directly responsible for the anomalous Arctic heat Alaska is now experiencing. It is also the cause of colder air being driven out of the Arctic and southward over the US, causing multiple cold snaps and extreme winter weather events in the lower 48. For the warm air influx, both at the surface and at the upper levels of the atmosphere, result in multiple polar vortex collapse events.

Polar Vortex to be Ripped in Half

And we are in the midst of just such a polar vortex collapse now. Over the past week, warmer air has flooded the high Arctic, weakening the polar vortex as the center of cold air began to split and streamed down over the continents. By Monday, these warm wedges of air, driving up over both Svalbard in the east and Alaska in the west, will have completely separated the polar vortex into two disassociated cold centers.

In essence, the polar vortex will have been ripped in half by a pincer style warm air invasion from the south. Who knew that atmospheric warming would come to mimic the battlefield tactics of Germans rumbling over the fields of France during World War II? But here we are:

Polar Vortex Ripped in Half

(Image source: University of Washington)

In the above image, we can plainly see the much warmer than normal air wedge driving up from the south and over Alaska in association with the now, ten month old, blocking pattern and related Rossby wave feature over the Pacific and North America. A second, albeit weaker, wedge drives in over Europe and across Svalbard. The net result is a ‘pincer’ of warm air invading the Arctic and cutting the polar vortex in half.

Note that one cold air vortex is predicted to be centered over Eastern Canada near Hudson Bay (Monday). The other is shown to be driven south to Russian Kamchatka near the Sea of Okhotsk. Perhaps coincidentally, this cold air core is very close to the Amur region of Russia and China that experienced a 150 year flood event just this summer. A flood event also associated with anomalous Jet Stream patterns linking polar, temperate, ocean and monsoonal storm patterns (see Song of Flood and Fire and Requiem for Flooded Cities).

Under this pattern the Arctic and especially Alaska will continue to experience record or near-record warmth, while the lower 48 continues to suffer the repeated blows of extreme winter weather as the conditions that are supposed to be affecting the Polar region are instead mercilessly driven southward by a human caused warming and polar vortex collapse event.

Links:

Jet Stream Flip Flop: Alaska is Warmer than Lower 48 Again

Sea Ice Loss Locks Jet Stream into Severe Winter Storm Pattern for Much of US

The Arctic Heatwave: Greenland, Siberia, Alaska Heat Domes and a Mangled Jet Stream

From Archangel to Alaska, Heat Waves Now Flank the Central Arctic

NASA

Dr. Jennifer Francis, Top Climatologists, Explain how Global Warming Wrecks the Jet Stream and Amps up the Hydrological Cycle to Produce Extreme Weather

Weather Underground

Arctic Temperatures Now Hottest Seen in at Least 44,000 Years

Cold Snap for the US? It’s the Collapsing Polar Vortex, Stupid.

University of Washington

A Song of Flood and Fire

A Requiem for Flooded Cities

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

This is What Human-Caused Climate Change Looks Like: Arctic to Warm, West Coast to Bake, Polar Vortex to Collapse and Flood Eastern US With Arctic Air

Well, the forecast is in. And it appears we are about to receive yet another helping of winter weather extremes driven by human caused climate change.

ECMWF and NOAA models both show mid and upper level warmth increasing over the polar region. This warmth, over the next week, will invade toward the surface, collapsing the polar vortex and driving Arctic cold into both Siberia and North America. In the image below, you can see that mid level cold is cut in half by warmth flooding into the polar zone resulting in both the polar vortex collapse and ejection toward southern latitudes all while severely malforming the circumpolar Jet Stream.

ECMWF Jan 26

(ECMWF 850 hPa temperature and pressure gradient for the Northern Hemisphere. Image source ECMWF)

Note that mid level atmospheric temperatures are about the same over the Central Arctic as they are over Central Europe, a much lower latitude. Also note how the polar cold, typically centered over the Arctic is driven away and further south into two distinct zones — one over Siberia, the other over North America. Already, observations in the high Arctic show temperatures as much as 30 degrees F above average for this time of year and such anomalies are projected to expand as this second vortex collapse of the season progresses.

This new temperature flux will make the fixed Rossby wave ridge and trough pattern very intense, forming high velocity upper level wind flows over much of the US. To the north, the Jet will invade Alaska. To the south, it will dig deep into the Gulf of Mexico, bringing cold Arctic air into direct contact with moist, warm tropical air. The result may well be a spectacular and dangerous series of winter storms over the next two weeks for the Central and Eastern US.

So you may wish to stay abreast of local weather reports as this most recent collapse series could pack quite a punch while spawning a variety of very extreme weather conditions.

Jet Stream Flow January 22

(ECMWF upper level wind flow over the US for January 22. Note the deep low over southeastern Canada and the powerful associated Jet Stream flow riding along the U shaped trough in the current blocking pattern.)

The vortex disruption, collapse, and flushing of cold air out of the Arctic and further south is forecast to result in a strong cold snap for the Eastern and Central US. Negative anomalies are projected to reach as low as -47 degrees F below average in some locations near the Great Lakes. According to these forecasts the cold may be about as strong but last a bit longer than the previous cold snap spurred by the early January polar vortex collapse.

Meanwhile, strong positive temperature anomalies up to +26 F are expected to dominate the US southwest, a region already suffering some of its driest conditions in a century. Such record warmth is likely to further exacerbate what has come to be a freakish and anomalous period of winter wildfires in the most drought stricken zones along the US West Coast.

ECMWF Vortex Collapse and Cold Snap

(ECMWF temperature forecast for January 23, 2014. Note the vertical line of temperature anomalies almost perfectly bisecting the North American Continent.)

This kind of extreme weather pattern almost perfectly models predictions by prominent polar researchers like Dr. Jennifer Francis, who projected increasingly anomalous Jet Stream patterns, blocking patterns, meandering, and cut off flows due to the massive Arctic melt having occurred since 1979. The retreat of snow and ice, both on land and at sea, results in more warm air invasions into the high Arctic and can directly spur just the kind of weather disruption predicted in the forecast above.

In the trough zones, periodic and powerful cold snaps are far more likely as the polar vortex collapses and cold, Arctic air is flushed south. In these troughs, storms are more frequent and powerful, amped up by the extreme temperature differences and by higher atmospheric moisture content due to overall warming. In the ridge zones, anomalous warmth, drought, and fires are experienced as the over-riding warm, dry air floods up through these regions and into the Arctic.

This is exactly the kind of dynamic we would expect from a warming world. From a world experiencing a powerful amplification of warmth in the northern polar zone. Such a pattern will likely continue to intensify until it is disrupted by large melt outflows from Greenland and from Baffin Island.

Links:

ECMWF

Premiering Next Week: Revenge of the Polar Vortex

Cold Snap for the US? It’s the Collapsing Polar Vortex, Stupid

Sea Ice Loss Locks Jet Stream into Severe Winter Storm Pattern for Most of US

The Polar Vortex is Probably Coming Back

Arctic Ice Graphs

Mangled Jet Stream Sparks Drought, Winter Wildfires…

Mangled Jet Stream Sparks Drought, Winter Wildfires in Southern California — Colby Fire Explodes to Nearly 2000 Acres in One Day

Colby Fire Jan 16

(The Colby Fire as seen from satellite. Image source: NASA)

Major wildfires in winter? It may sound odd, but that’s what’s happening in a California suffering under a climate-change spurred drought that is currently its 9th worst on record.

Yesterday, beneath a dry dome of high pressure and spurred by Santa Ana winds, the Colby fire sparked in a populated suburb of Los Angeles amid a deepening California drought. Today, the fires exploded into a nearly 2,000 acre monstrosity. The blaze, fueled by 30 to 50 mph winds was proving difficult to contain as over 500 firefighters rushed to the scene in an effort to keep it from leaping down into nearby population centers. Mandatory evacuations were in place for hundreds of residents as the fire aggressively advanced toward homes and places of work.

Colby fire photo

(Colby Fire threatens local businesses. Image credit: Julie Palagyi)

Red flag warnings are now in place for many LA counties, which are expected to experience continued strong winds, above average temperatures, and single-digit humidity over the next 24 hours. Such conditions are conducive for the further spread of the Colby fire as well as for the sparking of additional blazes throughout the LA region.

Abnormally Warm, Abnormally Dry

Wildfires are rare in California this time of year. During winter, the region typically experiences wetter, rainier  and cooler conditions as storms flow in off the Pacific Ocean. But this year, a powerful blocking pattern has forced warmer, drier air over the region. It is the other side of the same blocking pattern that is flooding the Arctic with above average temperatures while disrupting the polar vortex and resulting in episodes of extreme weather over the eastern and central US.

Jet Stream Pattern 16 Jan

(Jet Stream Pattern for Thursday and Friday. Image source: University of Washington.)

Note the very high amplitude ridge pushing up from California all the way into central Alaska and the corresponding trough digging down into the eastern US and pushing all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. This image is just a snap shot of the same blocking pattern that has persisted since late March of last year, resulting in wet, stormy conditions for the Eastern US and dry, hot, drought and fire conditions for the western US.

Blocking patterns of this kind have occurred in the past. But it is extraordinarily rare for such events to persist for ten months running. It is also the kind of event that climate experts such as Dr. Jennifer Francis warn is currently caused by a massive loss of sea ice cover in the Arctic and will become more common as sea ice continues its warming-induced retreat resulting in further Jet Stream weakening, meandering and retrenchment.

Weather Pattern Part of Trend Produced by Human-Caused Climate Change

This fixed weather pattern led to very severe conditions in California for December that, according to Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground, resulted in a -4.67 reading on the Palmer drought severity index. This makes December of 2013 the 9th worst drought month on record for California (although anecdotal evidence coming in through January indicate that current conditions may be even worse). It is also worth noting that of the top ten worst drought months to occur since 1880 in California, five have now occurred since 1991 — a climate record that shows an increasing number of dry and record dry periods. Such increasingly extreme drying was predicted by numerous climate models for the US southwest as human warming continued to intensify and advance into the 21rst century.

Though such changes were anticipated by scientists, if not by politicians, business leaders, or the media, it was not clear that a strong fire hazard would emerge in even winter months. But this year has seen numerous intense west coast fires during winter time. Such new conditions are quite anomalous. And should the blocking pattern continue to persist, expect extreme heat, drought and fires to ramp up through spring and summer.

Links:

Plumes of Smoke Waft Through Colby Skies as Wildfire Rages

Historic Drought Intensifies in California

University of Washington

NASA

Dr. Jennifer Francis, Top Climatologists Explain How Global Warming Wrecks the Jet Stream and Amps Up Hydrological Cycle To Cause Dangerous Weather

(Video not showing? Click here to watch it directly.)

A new program, posted above and produced by Australian Broadcasting, provides in depth analysis of the cutting edge climate science that begins to reveal how human-caused climate change is causing increasingly dangerous weather.

The program explores past extreme events like the European and Russian heatwaves that together resulted in nearly 100,000 deaths, the devastating floods of Pakistan, and this year’s extreme Northern Hemisphere winter and shows how climate change was the driving factor in each. The program also explores issues I’ve been covering here — like how melting sea ice causes the Jet Stream to meander, resulting in more persistent weather patterns that drive extreme events. The chief pioneer in this research, Dr. Jennifer Francis, provides some well rendered and somewhat chilling explanations about this key feature of our new atmosphere.

Another aspect explored is how global warming greatly increases the hydrological cycle. New findings have shown that just 1 degree Celsius of global temperature rise increases the intensity of the global hydrological cycle by a whopping 7%. Evaporation increases by 7%, fueling more droughts and heatwaves, and rates of rainfall during storms also increases by 7%, further increasing the damage caused by the most extreme storms. Predicted rises in temperatures of 2, 4, 6 or more degrees Celsius would result in a catastrophic amplification of the hydrological cycle by 15, 30, 40 percent or greater. This basic underpinning of storm and drought formation shows how devastating to human systems such a massive change in major weather drivers would be.

Lastly, the program explores how even a .8 degree Celsius rise in temperatures has resulted in more deadly heatwaves. The great European, Russian, US and Australia heatwaves of the past decade are all explored in this particular expose.

Please watch to entire video. It is well worth your time.

Hat tip to Climate Crocks for the head’s up. As ever, my best wishes and admiration to Dr. Jennifer Francis for her astounding research.

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