Are atmospheric flow patterns favorable for summer extreme weather increasing?

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

Share this Blog
45
+

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

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 463 - 413

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17Blog Index

How much change in the environment would it take for the human race to vanish?...all thru earth's history species have come and gone,what would it take for the human species to vanish and yet another life form take its place?..my guess is, if i had to pick ONE change to the environment..it would be rainfall or a lack thereof.
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38541
Quoting StormTrackerScott:


If I get banned for speaking then truth the so be it. I never said anything that wasn't true. Anyways back to weather!

Pacific NW looks very wet!


Our next chance of rain is on Saturday.Looks like it'll be a cloudy week with some sunshien possible.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Thanks Dr. Masters! :D
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting washingtonian115:
If you don't want to get banned then I suggest you get off this topic.I'm not being harsh or anything but this subject is sensitive to some.


If I get banned for speaking then truth the so be it. I never said anything that wasn't true. Anyways back to weather!

Pacific NW looks very wet!


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Soap Box....
Taxes are lower now than they were when we had a budget surplus. they are lower now than they were in the 70's.
On the other side, Gas prices are twice as high as production costs with a healthy profit would dictate. So I would say we ARE paying a carbon tax, it is just that the tax is going to corporations and private individuals and doing nothing for the public or public good. Why are ZERO politicians talking about regulating gas prices to get the economy going? If you put a $2 per gallon TAX on gas, that would be seen as a hugely disproportionate tax on the working poor and NO ONE would stand for it.
But it comes from BP and SHELL, so everyone just rolls over and lets it happen???
During Hurricanes in Florida there are Gas price gouging rules. They should enforce them NOW.
It would sure save the economy here.

I like this soaking rain. Our groundwater needs a boost still.
Member Since: December 28, 2006 Posts: 114 Comments: 1571

Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6821
Quoting StormTrackerScott:


Well said! Obama is taxing the heck out of us due to his uncontrolable spending. Another tax on the American public would be devastating for some.
If you don't want to get banned then I suggest you get off this topic.I'm not being harsh or anything but this subject is sensitive to some.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting pottery:

WOW ! That's great news !

Now we will be able to eat more and more of less and less as corn and wheat plantations can now spread further and further north.

Seeing as how 77% of our diet is based entirely on wheat, corn, soya and rice, we are going to need more and more of those things, right ?

My sarcasm flag is hoisted high here.


As well it should be, further down the article says:

"This sets in motion a cycle of positive reinforcement between warming and loss of sea ice and snow cover, which we call the amplified greenhouse effect," Myneni said. "The greenhouse effect could be further amplified in the future as soils in the north thaw, releasing potentially significant amounts of carbon dioxide and methane."

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting LargoFl:
the artic goes thru changes all the time thru history, from frozen to warmth all down thru time.....Link

But this is the very first time EVER that one single species (you and me) or event has forced the warming this far and this fast.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


image update

lots of broken ice to the west mostly slush ice really fast melting once it begins for the season
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53866
Quoting LargoFl:
you see they are already thinking about this..dont..fall for this line,you pay enough taxes now dont you?..................Should a carbon tax be part of plans to combat global warming?


Well said! Obama is taxing the heck out of us due to his uncontrolable spending. Another tax on the American public would be devastating for some.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
we get it up here too wash jul and august can be brutal for humid and hot conditins the hottest i have seen is 37c with humidex near 50c
Polltion on days like those can be a killer as well.Especially if you have heart problems or any kind of sickness for that matter.That's why the movie theaters swim parks and other places with means of air conditoning get big bucks in the summer.Some places are free however.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Skyepony:
Vegetation growth at Earth's northern latitudes increasingly resembles lusher latitudes to the south, according to a NASA-funded study based on a 30-year record of ground-based and satellite data sets.

In a paper published Sunday, March 10, in the journal Nature Climate Change, an international team of university and NASA scientists examined the relationship between changes in surface temperature and vegetation growth from 45 degrees north latitude to the Arctic Ocean. Results show temperature and vegetation growth at northern latitudes now resemble those found 4 degrees to 6 degrees of latitude farther south as recently as 1982.

"Higher northern latitudes are getting warmer, Arctic sea ice and the duration of snow cover are diminishing, the growing season is getting longer and plants are growing more," said Ranga Myneni of Boston University's Department of Earth and Environment. "In the north's Arctic and boreal areas, the characteristics of the seasons are changing, leading to great disruptions for plants and related ecosystems."




More here.

WOW ! That's great news !

Now we will be able to eat more and more of less and less as corn and wheat plantations can now spread further and further north.

Seeing as how 77% of our diet is based entirely on wheat, corn, soya and rice, we are going to need more and more of those things, right ?

My sarcasm flag is hoisted high here.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
you see they are already thinking about this..dont..fall for this line,you pay enough taxes now dont you?..................Should a carbon tax be part of plans to combat global warming?
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38541
Quoting washingtonian115:
Then you wouldn't be able to survive D.C in the summer.That is the absolute worst.Sometimes it feels like a blanket is over you the whole entire day and night.Tems at night in the peek of the summer don't go below the lower 80's to upper 70's.
we get it up here too wash jul and august can be brutal for humid and hot conditins the hottest i have seen is 37c with humidex near 50c
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53866
Let's play a game of find the squall line.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Skyepony:
Vegetation growth at Earth's northern latitudes increasingly resembles lusher latitudes to the south, according to a NASA-funded study based on a 30-year record of ground-based and satellite data sets.

In a paper published Sunday, March 10, in the journal Nature Climate Change, an international team of university and NASA scientists examined the relationship between changes in surface temperature and vegetation growth from 45 degrees north latitude to the Arctic Ocean. Results show temperature and vegetation growth at northern latitudes now resemble those found 4 degrees to 6 degrees of latitude farther south as recently as 1982.

"Higher northern latitudes are getting warmer, Arctic sea ice and the duration of snow cover are diminishing, the growing season is getting longer and plants are growing more," said Ranga Myneni of Boston University's Department of Earth and Environment. "In the north's Arctic and boreal areas, the characteristics of the seasons are changing, leading to great disruptions for plants and related ecosystems."




More here.


And atmospheric CO2 continues to rise alarmingly, despite increased uptake by this increased growth. 2012 was the 2nd highest annual CO2 increase on record. Makes ya think, don't it?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
the artic goes thru changes all the time thru history, from frozen to warmth all down thru time.....Link
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38541
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
i dont do humid to well and put in hot and iam done


yes, that's the perfect combination for me to be annoyed all day
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Great blog post by James Spann on the Blizzard of '93 http://www.alabamawx.com/?p=69517
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
i dont do humid to well and put in hot and iam done
Then you wouldn't be able to survive D.C in the summer.That is the absolute worst.Sometimes it feels like a blanket is over you the whole entire day and night.Tems at night in the peek of the summer don't go below the lower 80's to upper 70's.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
442. Skyepony (Mod)
Vegetation growth at Earth's northern latitudes increasingly resembles lusher latitudes to the south, according to a NASA-funded study based on a 30-year record of ground-based and satellite data sets.

In a paper published Sunday, March 10, in the journal Nature Climate Change, an international team of university and NASA scientists examined the relationship between changes in surface temperature and vegetation growth from 45 degrees north latitude to the Arctic Ocean. Results show temperature and vegetation growth at northern latitudes now resemble those found 4 degrees to 6 degrees of latitude farther south as recently as 1982.

"Higher northern latitudes are getting warmer, Arctic sea ice and the duration of snow cover are diminishing, the growing season is getting longer and plants are growing more," said Ranga Myneni of Boston University's Department of Earth and Environment. "In the north's Arctic and boreal areas, the characteristics of the seasons are changing, leading to great disruptions for plants and related ecosystems."




More here.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 164 Comments: 37869
Quoting washingtonian115:
It feels musty and tropical outside(humid conditons).I had to turn on the A.C.Something I haven't done since early september.
i dont do humid to well and put in hot and iam done
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53866
440. Skyepony (Mod)
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 164 Comments: 37869
It feels musty and tropical outside(humid conditons).I had to turn on the A.C.Something I haven't done since early september.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I don't remember the forecast today calling for tornadoes the size of an entire state....

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
wow...2-3"?
We really don't need this much rain at a time.The creeks and streams are already reaching the maximum their banks can hold..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
wow...2-3"?
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting pcola57:


Thanks Max..

It's Weather2 from EU..A bit tricky to use..


awesome!
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


nice weather map there...


Thanks Max and barb..

It's Weather2 from EU..A bit tricky to use..
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6821
Quoting pcola57:




Thanks for this site, Pcola. Bookmarked.
Member Since: October 25, 2008 Posts: 54 Comments: 5954
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


sensitive.....:)
Well it's good that you like tracking server weather and I hope you have a good tracking season.It's just that I have so many flashbacks to last year when 2012 is brought up along with server weather like thunderstorms.Just when i thoght the worst was over Sandy comes flying in(literally) and smacks us in the face.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting washingtonian115:
You sound excited.After last year storms(June 22,June 29,September 8 and Sandy) the kids still haven't recovered mentally..and I don't think they ever will for some time.I'm taking them to see a doctor next month.Even I haven't recovered from last year which is why I'm not looking forward to summer this .


sensitive.....:)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:





llj stays TN and norrth....

march2 2012 redo?

so warm
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting pcola57:


nice weather map there...
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
warm and CAPE 7 days maybe significant outbbreak...mid 70s
You sound excited.After last year storms(June 22,June 29,September 8 and Sandy) the kids still haven't recovered mentally..and I don't think they ever will for some time.I'm taking them to see a doctor next month.Even I haven't recovered from last year which is why I'm not looking forward to summer.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6821
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
ecmwf `outbreak 7 days


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting sunlinepr:
Big Surf at 3 Palmas, Rincon PR





I bet the whole NW coast is going off from this swell. If it was 10-13' here off the coast of Fl. Rincon and all those places are reeling.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38541
warm and CAPE 7 days maybe significant outbbreak...mid 70s
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
GFS in 7 days......
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38541
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38541
ecmwf `outbreak 7 days
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38541
Quoting Neapolitan:
How do you define "extremely normal weather"? And on what are you basing your statement?This statement shows a pretty serious misunderstanding in how the scientific method works. See, a scientist 1) observes a phenomenon, 2) develops a hypothesis to explain that phenonomenon, then 3) runs experiemnts to test that hypothesis. If those experiments prove that hypothesis invalid, it's tossed out; if not, it's kept alive, and other scientists are free to--in fact, are encouraged to--run those same or other experiments to see whether they can invalidate that hypothesis. You want to be shown where scientists tried to discount any hypothesis? That's easy; look at any peer-reviewed paper.That depends on what you mean by "sure". If the weather forecast calls for an 90% chance of rain, do you just leave your umbrella at home because the meteorologists aren't 100% sure of rain?

Virtually every peer-reviewed paper published in the past few decades points at the same inescapable conclusion: doing nothing in the hopes that this will all just pass is the most foolish course we could possibly take.
I'm not trying to start nothing..but if someone doesn't beleive in something let them see it with their own eyes except wasting time.

For example some people say they've seen ghost.However I don't beleive in ghost because I've never persoanlly seen one..

Anyway good morning.It is barely 9:30 in the morning and it's already nearing 60 degrees. Spring is defentially in the air.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
That was a good soaking in rain,about over now here...
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38541
raining somewhat heavy here



Pcola...take ur time, no rush

NOTE: Today I'll have a blog with a narrowed-down forecast for this hurricane season, with some other info
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


same to you, have you been checking your blog lately my friend?


No, been ill..
I need to try this am..
By the way I will start on that request you asked for today..
Don't know if I will finish it today though..
I will let you know.. :)
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6821
Quoting pcola57:


Good Morning Max..


same to you, have you been checking your blog lately my friend?
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
the sun rising...


Good Morning Max..


Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6821

Viewing: 463 - 413

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17Blog Index

Top of Page

About

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