Are atmospheric flow patterns favorable for summer extreme weather increasing?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:45 PM GMT on March 11, 2013

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In 2010, Russia baked through its most intense heat wave in recorded history, one that killed over 55,000 people. At the same time, intense rains deluged Pakistan, bringing that nation its worst natural disaster in its history. The following year, it was the United States' turn for extreme heat, as the nation sweltered through its third hottest summer on record, and Oklahoma suffered the hottest month any U.S. state has ever recorded. The U.S. summer of 2012 was even more extreme. Only the Dust Bowl summer of 1936 was hotter, and drought conditions were the most extensive since the 1930s. All of these events--and many more unusually extreme summer months in recent decades--had a common feature, said scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany, in a research paper published in March 2013 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. According to the authors, "each time one of these extremes struck, a strong wave train had developed in the atmosphere, circling the globe in mid-latitudes. These so-called planetary waves are well-known and a normal part of atmospheric flow. What is not normal is that the usually moving waves ground to a halt and were greatly amplified during the extreme events. Looking into the physics behind this, we found it is due to a resonance phenomenon. Under special conditions, the atmosphere can start to resonate like a bell. The wind patterns form a regular wave train, with six, seven or eight peaks and troughs going once around the globe". Using a complex theoretical mathematical description of the atmosphere and 32 years of historical weather data, the scientists showed that human-caused global warming might be responsible for this resonance phenomenon, which became twice as common during 2001 - 2012 compared to the previous 22 years.


Figure 1. Drought-damaged corn in a field near Nickerson, Nebraska, Aug. 16, 2012. The great U.S. drought of 2012 was the most extensive U.S. drought since the 1930s Dust Bowl. Damage from the 2012 drought is at least $35 billion, and probably much higher. The associated heat wave killed 123 people, and brought the U.S. its second hottest summer on record. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)


Figure 2. Business was slow at the Lake Conroe, Texas jet ski rental in 2011, thanks to the great Texas drought and heat wave of 2011. Texas endured its driest 1-year period on record in 2011, and had the hottest summer ever recorded by a U.S. state. July 2011 in Oklahoma was the hottest month any U.S. state has ever recorded, and the contiguous U.S. had its third hottest summer on record. The total direct losses to crops, livestock and timber from the drought, heat wave, and record fires of the summer of 2011 are estimated at $12 billion, with a death toll of 95. Image credit: wunderphotographer BEENE.


Figure 3. Tourists wear protective face masks as they walk along the Red Square in Moscow, Russia on Aug. 6, 2010. Moscow was shrouded by a dense smog that grounded flights at international airports and seeped into homes and offices, due to wildfires worsened by the city's most intense heat wave in its history. The heat wave and fires during the summer of 2010 killed over 55,000 people in Russia and decimated the Russian wheat crop, causing global food prices to spike. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)

Two fundamental atmospheric flow patterns may be resonating more often due to global warming
Earth's atmosphere has two fundamental patterns. One is a series of wave-like troughs and ridges in the jet stream called planetary (or Rossby) waves, which march west-to-east at about 15 - 25 mph around the globe. The other pattern behaves more like a standing wave, with no forward motion, and is created by the unequal heating of the equatorial regions compared to the poles, modulated by the position of the continents and oceans. A number of papers have been published showing that these two patterns can interact and resonate in a way that amplifies the standing wave pattern, causing the planetary waves to freeze in their tracks for weeks, resulting in an extended period of extreme heat or flooding, depending upon where the high-amplitude part of the wave lies. But what the Potsdam Institute scientists found is that because human-caused global warming is causing the Arctic to heat up more than twice as rapidly as the rest of the planet, the two patterns are interacting more frequently during the summer. During the most recent eleven years, 2002 - 2012, there were eight Julys and Augusts that showed this unusually extreme resonance pattern (this includes the U.S. heat wave of July - August 2012.) The two previous eleven year periods, 1991 - 2001 and 1980 - 1990, had just four extreme months apiece. Global warming could certainly cause this observed increase in the resonance phenomenon, but the researchers cautioned, "The suggested physical process increases the probability of weather extremes, but additional factors certainly play a role as well, including natural variability. Also, the 32-year period studied in the project provides a good indication of the mechanism involved, yet is too short for definitive conclusions. So there's no smoking gun on the table yet--but quite telling fingerprints all over the place."



Figure 4. The northward wind speed (negative values, blue on the map, indicate southward flow) at an altitude of 300 mb in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere during July 2011 and July 1980. July of 2011 featured an unusually intense and long-lasting heat wave in the U.S., and the normally weak and irregular waves (like observed during the relatively normal July of 1980) were replaced by a strong and regular wave pattern. Image credit: Vladimir Petoukhov.

Commentary
The new Potsdam Institute paper gives us a mathematical description of exactly how global warming may be triggering observed fundamental changes in large-scale atmospheric flow patterns, resulting in the observed increase in unusually intense and long-lasting periods of extreme weather over the past eleven years. The paper also adds important theoretical support to the research published in 2012 by Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University, which found that the amplitude of Earth's planetary waves had increased by over 100 miles (161 km) in summer over the past decade in the Northern Hemisphere. Dr. Francis theorized that this change was connected to increased heating of the Arctic relative to the rest of the Earth, due to the observed decline in late spring Northern Hemisphere snow cover. Humans tend to think linearly--one plus one equals two. However, the atmosphere is fundamentally non-linear. What may seem to be modest changes in Earth's climate can trigger unexpected resonances that will amplify into extreme changes--cases where one plus one equals four, or eight, or sixteen. In some cases, when you rock the boat too far, it won't simply roll a bit more, it will reach a tipping point where it suddenly capsizes. Similarly, human-caused global warming is capable of pushing the climate past a tipping point where we enter a new climate regime, one far more disruptive than what we are used to.

Julys and Augusts since 1980 when quasiresonant extreme conditions were observed
The Potsdam Institute's research lists sixteen July and August periods since 1980 that have had extreme atmospheric flow patterns due to quasiresonance. These months featured severe regional heat waves and destructive floods in the Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes, detailed below. Half of these months occurred in the most recent 11-year period, 2002 - 2012. During most of these extreme months, there was not a moderate or strong La Niña or El Niño event contributing to the extremes. Summers when a La Niña or El Niño event was present are listed in parentheses, based on the Oceanic Niño Index (ONI).

July and early August 2012: Catastrophic floods in China and Japan, as well as record-breaking temperatures during heat waves in the United States and southern Europe (weak summer El Niño)

July 2011: Record heat wave in the United States, resulting in the fourth warmest July on record nationally and the driest conditions in the southern United States ever (weak summer La Niña)

July/August 2010: Russian heat wave and the Pakistan flood, with the strongest and most persistent extreme weather conditions and the highest death tolls from heat waves and floods ever for these two regions (strong summer La Niña)

July 2006: Temperatures higher than 100°F for only the second time in Britain’s history and much of Europe experiencing a serious heat wave (weak summer El Niño)

August 2004: Much of northern Europe hit by very low winter-like temperatures and sporadic snowfalls (moderate to strong summer El Niño)

August 2003: European summer 2003 heat wave, causing a highly persistent drought in western Europe (weak summer El Niño)

August 2002: Catastrophic Elbe and Danube floods (strong summer El Niño)

July 2000: Destructive floods in northern Italy and the Tisza basin and a simultaneous heat wave in the southern United States, smashing all-time high-temperature records by that time at many sites (strong summer La Niña)

July/August 1997: Disastrous Great European Flood, which caused several deaths in central Europe, and the destroying floods in Pakistan and western United States (strong summer El Niño)

July 1994: Very strong heat wave in southern Europe, with a national temperature record of 47.2°C set in Spain (weak summer El Niño)

July 1993: Unprecedented great flood in the United States that reigned over the country from April (weak summer El Niño)

July 1989: Unusually intense and unprecedented widespread drought in the United States (weak summer La Niña)

August 1987: Severe drought in the southeastern United States (strong summer El Niño)

August 1984: Continuation of the severe heat of summer 1983, with serious drought in the United States (weak summer La Niña)

July and August 1983: Very dry conditions, severe heat, and substandard crop growth (5–35% below normal) in the Midwest United States (weak summer El Niño)

Links
Petoukhov, V., Rahmstorf, S., Petri, S., Schellnhuber, H. J. (2013), "Quasi-resonant amplification of planetary waves and recent Northern Hemisphere weather extremes" Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, (Early Edition) [doi:10.1073/pnas.1222000110]. No subscription required, but understanding this article requires a graduate-level understanding of the mathematical theory of atmospheric dynamics. Try reading instead this easy-to-read description of the paper by the authors, published at http://theconversation.edu.au.

Press release issued in March 2013 by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), "Weather extremes provoked by trapping of giant waves in the atmosphere."

In this 40-minute lecture presented in 2013 at the University of Arkansas, Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University explains the linkage between warming in the Arctic due to human-caused global warming and an observed shift in Northern Hemisphere jet stream patterns.

Linking Weird Weather to Rapid Warming of the Arctic, a March 2012 article by Dr. Jennifer Francis in the Yale Environment 360.

Francis, J.A., and S.J.Vavrus, 2012, "Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes", GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 39, L06801, doi:10.1029/2012GL051000, 2012

Jeff Masters

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Ok.... Back later.... Football practice for grandson, and I promise I won't tell him what KEEPER had on....Bye
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PedleyCA:
We are all going to get Time-Out
Or worse
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Quoting PedleyCA:


What you had there was perfect for that outfit..... lol

I would never wear dark socks with shorts. Dark socks are for dress pants.
Speedo and dark socks.... How freekin' hot is that
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210. VR46L
Quoting PedleyCA:


What you had there was perfect for that outfit..... lol

I would never wear dark socks with shorts. Dark socks are for dress pants.



Yep that is the way to wear socks for a man IMO
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6927
We are all going to get Time-Out
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 5919
Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


Now I am confused. What color of socks goes best with the rest of that attire? ... Purple???


What you had there was perfect for that outfit..... lol

I would never wear dark socks with shorts. Dark socks are for dress pants.
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 5919
Quoting JustPlantIt:
Yes... don't live there, but not an orgasmic moment for me here in PA:)))))))))))))
Not touching that one
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Quoting aspectre:
140 JustPlantIt I would get the hell out of S. California if I lived there!!!!

Why? Biggest hazard is hours'n'hours of "Did the earth move for you, baby?" on talk radio.
Yep, SoCal is that boring.
Yes... don't live there, but not an orgasmic moment for me here in PA:)))))))))))))
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
actually when i put the coat on my other half said now it looks like thats all you are wearing

i said yeah iam the super flasher
Don't look Ethel, She'd already been mooned. by KEEPER
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
i only wear white socks and never pulled up higher than the boot


Good to see you have taste.
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Quoting PedleyCA:
Not with the black socks....
i only wear white socks and never pulled up higher than the boot
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2.9 2013/03/11 10:22:34 27.610N 91.962W 10.0 232 km (144 mi) SSW of Dulac, LA
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Quoting PedleyCA:
Not with the black socks....
See it all the time here in Florida... Black socks, and the "MUST" camera... So freekin' cool
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Meanwhile ...

"Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III is no smelly hippie."

That's good news. Continuing the quote:

"He became chief of U.S. Pacific Command last year after running the maritime portion of NATO’s 2011 war against Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi."

Good for him, you say. At least he ain't in any photos posted by Rookie. Well:

"To Locklear, the consequences of a warming planet are likely to “cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.”"

I think someone posted this info yesterday, but things get buried sometimes.

Climate Change Is the Biggest Threat in the Pacific, Says Top U.S. Admiral
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6061
Quoting PedleyCA:
Not with the black socks....


Now I am confused. What color of socks goes best with the rest of that attire? ... Purple???
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4745
Quoting Doppler22:


Lets not ginks anything here....


i hope i dont jinx ya

but to be honest iam expecting an 8.0 or greater event when and where i have no idea but its been awhile since one has occur so its about time for one to happen hopefully no where near S.cal but i never rule anything out
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Not with the black socks....
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158 wxmod: Satellite image of most of the world with carbon monoxide overlay. Red is highest level measured.

Formaldehyde(H2CO) and CarbonMonoxide(CO) are two intermediate products of the main atmospheric Methane(CH4) oxidation pathway before becoming CO2 and H20
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
actually when i put the coat on my other half said now it looks like thats all you are wearing

i said yeah iam the super flasher
I'm too sexy for my shirt, too sexy for my shirt...
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Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Trying to picture shorts and a raincoat.... Quite the fashion statement


Yes, well yes it is!




Although some do wear the fashion better than others. (Sorry, Keeper)

Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4745
Quoting Doppler22:

Its only a 4.7......... theyre used to them and everything so they were fine... when u grow up in CA u get used to them


I've been in worse quakes than that. The one in Washington D.C. in 2011, I was there for it. :P SCARED THE LIVIN DAYLIGHTS OUT OF ME...
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Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Trying to picture shorts and a raincoat.... Quite the fashion statement
actually when i put the coat on my other half said now it looks like thats all you are wearing

i said yeah iam the super flasher
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54360
Quoting dabirds:
Thanks for the answer Ped, this page actually went to the top, maybe it's fixed now.

33 in S C IL w/ 32 dew pt, still overcast w/ 10 mph W wind, gusting to 27. Pretty raw, but supposed to warm near 60 for St. Paddy's wkend.


Can't be soon enough......
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
i was wearing shorts and a rain coat today nice out but soon to end
Trying to picture shorts and a raincoat.... Quite the fashion statement
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Heatwave
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Quoting PedleyCA:
Hey Keeper, You still got your jacket on. I see you got 48F (heatwave)
i was wearing shorts and a rain coat today nice out but soon to end
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Thanks for the answer Ped, this page actually went to the top, maybe it's fixed now.

33 in S C IL w/ 32 dew pt, still overcast w/ 10 mph W wind, gusting to 27. Pretty raw, but supposed to warm near 60 for St. Paddy's wkend.
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Quoting PedleyCA:
Hey Keeper, You still got your jacket on. I see you got 48F (heatwave)
Whenever he calls my name,
Soft, low, sweet, and plain
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A great number--the majority, in fact--of the colored squares showing up on the SCEC's "Recent Earthquakes" map are spurious, and will be flushed soon. Most are system messages automatically sent when an actual shock is felt; these will usually pop up by the dozens when an area with great seismometer coverage--such as SoCal--is affected by a real quake. If in doubt, simply click on the squares for details; the spurious ones will always be led by the following disclaimer: This is a computer-generated message. This event has not yet been reviewed by a seismologist.
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Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Oh no Pedley... It affected your spelling.... You ok?


Yes I see my spelling got damaged.
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Hey Keeper, You still got your jacket on. I see you got 48F (heatwave)
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 5919
Quoting PedleyCA:


You would feel that if you were near it. It could damge stuff if it wasn't sturdy. It would get your attention. Not real strong though as those go.
Oh no Pedley... It affected your spelling.... You ok?
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140 JustPlantIt I would get the hell out of S. California if I lived there!!!!

Why? Biggest hazard is hours'n'hours of "Did the earth move for you, baby?" on talk radio.
Yep, SoCal is that boring.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


so do ya think you will feel an 8.9


Within a couple hundred miles..... lol
I know what 6.7 feels like....
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


so do ya think you will feel an 8.9


Lets not ginks anything here....
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Quoting PedleyCA:


The original was downgraded to a 4.7.....
That is a big differance in earthquakes. 5.2 to now a 4.7. Yes I do know that it was not a 6 or 7 or god the 9. Worried about all those little quakes. Not a normal sequence for quakes in your area. Lot of aftershocks... worries me.

Take care and be safe.
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Quoting PedleyCA:


Didn't even feel this one, was over 50 miles away.


so do ya think you will feel an 8.9
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Quoting JustPlantIt:
ACTUALLY A 5.2 before the USGS added more to the cluster


The computer said it was a 5.2 before it was evaluated. Then it was labeled a 4.7.
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Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
You ok Ped? you were my first thought


Didn't even feel this one, was over 50 miles away.
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Quoting yonzabam:


Isn't 4.7 rather insignificant? I'd have thought Californians would be well used to quakes of that magnitude. Any damage reports?


You would feel that if you were near it. It could damge stuff if it wasn't sturdy. It would get your attention. Not real strong though as those go.
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 5919
Quoting PedleyCA:


The original was downgraded to a 4.7.....


Isn't 4.7 rather insignificant? I'd have thought Californians would be well used to quakes of that magnitude. Any damage reports?
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Quoting PedleyCA:


The original was downgraded to a 4.7.....
You ok Ped? you were my first thought
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Quoting Doppler22:

Its only a 4.7......... theyre used to them and everything so they were fine... when u grow up in CA u get used to them


Yes you do. I used to live in Burbank (till 2004)
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Quoting Doppler22:

Its only a 4.7......... theyre used to them and everything so they were fine... when u grow up in CA u get used to them
ACTUALLY A 5.2 before the USGS added more to the cluster
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168. VR46L
Quoting ncstorm:


Funny it is weird ... and the GFS was strange too with a tiny low racing across the US and hit the atlantic where it explodes along the east coast .. but both 12Z seem funny . guess we will have a better Idea tomorrow evening ...
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Quoting JustPlantIt:
The original quake, (the first one), was a 5.2 according to the USGS. All of the aftershocks, etc erode the original. Again as I have said before, this needs to be fixed by the USGS as aftershocks on top of the original earthqauke make it difficult to track seismic activity.

Today.


The original was downgraded to a 4.7.....
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the 12z Euro maps didnt update till after I posted but it looks like it has a NE storm as the 12z GFS..
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Hey Yall. We can crunch all the analog numbers/years, and prospective long-term models, in terms of the 2013 Atlantic H-Season all we want but the last several years have been full of surprises; large numbers of storms regardless of enso cycle, large percentage of tropical storms vs. predicted majors that never materialized, and no major landfalls in the US when steering patterns appeared favorable (last year coming to mind the the very fast westerlies kept several storms from blowing up past TS level).

Anything could happen this year is my point and it is all a wait and see...........It will be interesting fo sho to see what this year brings and whether it will also be out of the norm at any given level.
... Yeah.. that's right, I agree 100%! wait a minute... did you just say ANYTHING?! ;)
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Quoting WunderGirl12:


I hope they stayed safe!!

Its only a 4.7......... theyre used to them and everything so they were fine... when u grow up in CA u get used to them
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Quoting Doppler22:
Got a call from my grandparents in Burbank, CA.... they said they thought of me as soon as it started moving :D


I hope they stayed safe!!
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.