Jet stream moved northwards 270 miles in 22 years; climate change to blame?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:11 PM GMT on June 05, 2008

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Climate change is forcing the jet stream higher and closer to the pole in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, according research published this April in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. In their paper, "Historical trends in the jet streams", researchers Cristina Archer and Ken Caldeira of Stanford's Carnegie Institution of Washington analyzed data from 1979-2001, and found that the Northern Hemisphere jet stream moved northward at approximately 125 miles per decade (270 miles during the 22-year period of the study). The jet moved higher by 5-23 meters during this period, and the wind speeds decreased by about 1 mph. Archer and Caldeira's study confirms other research showing a poleward movement of the jet stream in recent decades (Fu et al., 2006; Hu and Fu, 2007). All of these changes are consistent with the behavior of the jet stream predicted by global warming theory. For example, Lorenz and DeWeaver (2007) found poleward shifts of the jet stream by 2100 in the forecasts of 15 climate models used to formulate the "official" word on climate, the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) report. However, the authors were careful not to say how much of this shift in the jet stream was due to natural causes versus human-caused climate change. It is unknown if the jet stream has natural decades-long changes in its path that could account for the observed poleward shift.


Figure 1. The jet stream is located where the strongest winds at the top of the troposphere are found (35,000-45,000 feet high, 200-300 mb in pressure).

Archer and Caldeira note that "These changes in jet stream latitude, altitude, and strength have likely affected, and perhaps will continue to affect, the formation and evolution of storms in the mid-latitudes and of hurricanes in the sub-tropical regions." They don't specify what these changes might be. There is very little research that has been done suggesting how changes in the jet stream might affect hurricane formation and strength. One effect we may begin to see in coming decades is a reduction and/or delay in the number of hurricanes that recurve northward out to sea. Recurvature occurs when a hurricane begins to "feel" the westerly winds of the jet stream. As the jet stream continues to move northward and weaken as the globe warms, we can expect that hurricanes moving though the Caribbean will be less likely to recurve, resulting in more hurricane strikes in Mexico and Central America. Unfortunately, the quality of the Atlantic hurricane database for non-U.S. landfalls is not very good, and it will be several decades before we will be able to tell if the number of hurricane landfalls in Mexico and Central America is increasing due to a poleward shift in the jet stream.

References
Fu, Q., C. M. Johanson, J. M. Wallace, and T. Reichler (2006), Enhanced mid-latitude tropospheric warming in satellite measurements, Science, 312, 1179, doi:10.1126/science.1125566.

Hu, Y., and Q. Fu (2007), Observed poleward expansion of the Hadley circulation since 1979, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Disc., 7, 9367.9384.

Lorenz, D. J., and E. T. DeWeaver (2007), Tropopause height and zonal wind response to global warming in the IPCC scenario integrations, J. Geophys. Res., 112, D10119, doi:10.1029/2006JD008087.

Jeff Masters

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64. airman45
5:20 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
61.

Absolutely! A combination of everything.
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63. WhereIsTheStorm
5:17 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
52. 69Viking 5:12 PM GMT on June 05, 2008

In the meantime I've replaced every bulb in my house with a fluorescent and now I'm researching affordable solar power for the home. Why solar power isn't more readily available in my part of Florida is crazy.


Are you talking about the fluorescent bulbs that you can't throw away because they are toxic to the enviornment? I couldn't believe this when I FIRST heard it.
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62. StormJunkie
5:20 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
Good to see ya SW, but can you stupidify that for me?
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61. groundswell
5:17 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
54.

It's not just temps, it's the whole destrucive cycle of consuming resources & pouring waste, whether it be in the air, water, or ground.
IMHO
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 381
59. StormJunkie
5:16 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
53.

I love and envy those JPL, Lockheed, Nasa folks! They can do damn near anything, they just need to be given the resources and go ahead to do it.

Why solar power isn't more readily available in my part of Florida is crazy.

Across the nation...And wind works too.

The why = not good for the current folks holding the money in the power industry.
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58. fire831rescue
5:08 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
Flood, not trying to open a can of worms, but many people have seemed to put climate change/global warming solely on the shoulders of humans while leaving out the importance of natural processes happening all around us. The way of thinking has completely forgotten that the Earth's natural processes have a huge impact on climate, as well. While I agree that we may have some part in it, I also think the Earth, itself, is changing, too. People don't realize that our Earth DOES, in fatc, change position in the solar system. It is not on a constant orbit at a constant angle. Any little change, no matter how slight, can throw off the delicate balnce of Earth's atmosphere. Also, as the sun ages, it can either get hotter or cooler, depending on how much hydrogen or helium is being burned. Sometimes to see the big picture, you have to look at the big picture and see that humans are only a small part of a larger, more complex system. The current mindset on climate change needs to get out of the box and see that there is more to what is going on around us than we think.
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57. Floodman
5:17 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
StormW, I'm looking forward to it
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56. presslord
1:10 PM EDT on June 05, 2008
as a matter of fact...the egg came first....dinosauers were laying eggs long before there were chickens....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
55. Floodman
5:06 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
39. thelmores

Thel, I think the use of "Climate Change" is more accurate, really. Given that the atmosphere is generally trying to normalize, some areas will be warmer, others cooler...one prime example: when I was in Missouri last week, around the I-70 corridor, I saw 20 or 30 dead armadillos on the side of the road, I grew up in central and east cetral MO, and when I was a kid, the furthest north you ever saw a 'dillo was central Oklahoma...they've moved north some 200-300 miles in the last 30 years or so. They're actually starting to be an issue in the southwest 'burbs of St Louis.

Now, look at the snow fall from the I-70 corridor northward this past winter; that would tend to make you think that a warming atmosphere is NOT happeneing...next year St Louis and the central corridor may not see temps under 40 and have no snow...the climate is bouncing, trying to find a level; climate change, I think, would be a more accurate (and somewhat less alarmist) term
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54. airman45
5:15 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
Floodman,

Good point. It is a combination of factors, but using data from just a few decades may not be good indications of a trend. For those of you old enough to remember, the big hype in the 1970s was the coming Ice Age. The U.S. had the coldest winters in history (especially 1976-1977) so suddenly it was a scientific fact. Not a word was said about global warming. I am not saying the temps arenĀ“t rising NOW, but that could change in just a few years and go the other way.
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53. condesa
4:53 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
I heard an interview on NPR about 8 years ago with someone at JPL discussing the Mars Program. The reporter asked the Rocket Scientist if he didn't ever feel guilty about all the spending on Mars and also about not using his/their brains to help resolve our problems here on Earth. Paraphrased, Rocket Scientist didn't hesitate to reply that oh no, au contraire- precisely because Earth would become uninhabitable it was exciting and vital that the Mars program go forward so that the new pioneers could get the new forts set up there without further delay.
I'll never forget it.
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52. 69Viking
12:04 PM CDT on June 05, 2008
39. thelmores

I totally agree, whether it's climate change or global warming we need to do what we can to clean up our act. For that the U.S. needs a president willing to take the first step, move over Bush.

In the meantime I've replaced every bulb in my house with a fluorescent and now I'm researching affordable solar power for the home. Why solar power isn't more readily available in my part of Florida is crazy.
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51. StormJunkie
5:10 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
22N 65W...little spin, lots o shear!
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50. StormJunkie
5:10 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
Afternoon SW
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48. TEXASYANKEE43
5:07 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
How about the millions of acres of rain forest being cut and burned?
47. StormJunkie
5:06 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
42.
No problem, and call me what you like, Storm is not the best one though. SJ works, Junkie, or to quote another, Junkman...lol ;~) @ Vort
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46. smmcdavid
12:07 PM CDT on June 05, 2008
41. Sulli, in the literal chicken vs egg... the egg came first (amniotic egg). Just to let you know. LOL
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45. StormJunkie
5:04 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
Does the why really matter?
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44. Brillig
5:02 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
Condesa, I updated my post with a link.
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43. Floodman
4:53 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
19. fire831rescue

Fire, while there is no doubt that some of the warming we're seeing is a natural cycle, only a fool would deny that the burning of some 1.2 trillion barrels of fossil fuels in the last 120 years or so, not the mention the trillions of tons of coal we've burned has released tremendous amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. I remember in the mid to late 90s the argument from the "non-human" cause cabal was that the oceans were absorbing the CO2 fast enough to obviate the CO2 increase. I notice that I'm not seeing that argument being made anymore...again, you can only add so much material to a closed system before changes are noticeable

That having been said, I'm not an extremist for either camp, but I think laying the changes in climate at the feet of natural processes is akin to sitting in the livingroom while your house is on fire and saying "oh well, fire is a natural thing, this is nothing to worry about"...that song will certainly change when ones hair is on fire...

Yikes, I need to put my soapbox into storage and lock it up!
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42. 69Viking
11:55 AM CDT on June 05, 2008
23. StormJunkie

Thanks Junkie! LOL, that sounds funny refering to you that way! Sorry, too many storms, had to differentiate!
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41. sullivanweather
1:01 PM EDT on June 05, 2008
This is a what came first, the chicken or the egg situation to me.

Is global warming causing the jet stream to move northward, or is a northward movement in the jet stream causing global warming? Or are they related in a positive feedback loop amplifying eachothers effects?

I think that's the question that needs to be determined first before a 15-70 foot increase in height or a one or two degree poleward shift in latitude can be directed attibuted to any phenomenon.

It's the same with arctic ice...

Warming causes some melting, but melting causes some warming. Both ice loss and warming are interdependent on eachother and I believe that it is likely the same with the jet stream.

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40. StormJunkie
5:00 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
Fire, don't forget the 500$ or so you have to spend each year for the feeds!
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39. thelmores
4:36 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
Thanks Dr. Masters.....

I will admit that I am a little skeptical about all this stuff, but I have learned throUgh the years that Dr. Masters is not a global warming nut, and does indeed try his best to be factual, and credible.

It bothers me also that it used to be Global Warming..... which has now been morphed into "Climate Change".

Climate change to me seems to be a "catch all and cover all". Fact of the matter, the climate is ALWAYS changing!

To me it is entirely possible, and I think even acknowledged by Dr. Masters that this entire study could be caused by natural variability......

But I do applaud further study, and I do hope no matter how you feel about this topic, we should do within reason whatever we can do to clean up our air and water.
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38. StormJunkie
4:55 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
27.

Do we have the technologies and capabilities to at least set up small bases on the Moon and Mars? No questions asked; we do. Really the logistics are not that much further stretched then the ISS technologies. It really is a matter of determination imho.

Yea fire, kind of steep huh. But not if you are Dade County, or BP, or some of the other folks that software was designed for.

I really wanted to try and use it to create some stuff for my site, but end user agreement prevents it...Arghh.

Hot as 40 hells press!
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37. sky1989
4:57 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
I think that this hurricane season will end up being more interesting than the last two. Shear is lower than it was this time in 2006 and 2007. If the waves that continue rolling off of Africa are as strong as we've been seing throughout the whole season it should be interesting.
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36. sky1989
4:56 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
Very Interesting...
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35. fire831rescue
4:55 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
No probelm, viking. I think it's a good piece of software that will prove to be quite useful........ I just have to figure out how to work it.
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34. 69Viking
11:54 AM CDT on June 05, 2008
21. fire831rescue

Thanks!
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33. smmcdavid
11:54 AM CDT on June 05, 2008
And press... didn't see you. Ha ha.
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32. 69Viking
11:53 AM CDT on June 05, 2008
Hello again SMMC!
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31. fire831rescue
4:50 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
Yes, SJ. You can drool over the product while being SHOCKED by the price!!! $3700 for the best one. Ouch!
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30. presslord
12:51 PM EDT on June 05, 2008
global warming....climate change....the fact that it's June....whatever.....it's hot in the Lowcountry today....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
29. groundswell
4:47 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
20.

Of course-but you are talking huge technological & physical challenges. And time.
Just my opinion, but I'm not sure that everybody realizes just how thin our atmosphere really is: and it is changing fast.
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28. condesa
4:50 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
Brillig-
Would you share some source/link info related to you post?
I'd think those are significant factors, too.
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27. 69Viking
11:49 AM CDT on June 05, 2008
16. StormJunkie

Good point, we make enough movies about it but do we have the technology to really make it happend any time soon?
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26. smmcdavid
11:52 AM CDT on June 05, 2008
Good almost afternoon all... hi SJ, Viking.
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25. keywestdingding
4:44 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
thanks storm junkie. great website. lots of great info.
i just wish they would update the sst's on here. its like a one stop shop here-lol
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24. condesa
4:39 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
Interesting times.
Thanks, Dr. Masters.
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23. StormJunkie
4:48 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
21. Was just about to go grab that :~)

Here is another one. Mostly just to drool over!

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22. 69Viking
11:44 AM CDT on June 05, 2008
Great update Dr. M! I really wonder if there is any way to prove the jetstream is moving north because of global warming. I mean how far back do jetstream records go? Probably not far enough to tell if there is a decades long cycle as suggested in Dr. M's update.
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21. fire831rescue
4:45 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
Link Here you go.
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20. StormJunkie
4:45 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
17. Eventually it would have to come to that, but for now I would think we would start out a little closer to home.
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19. fire831rescue
4:37 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
In my opinion, as far as climate change is concerned, a lot of people are wanting to use humans and the way with as a reason as to why it's happening. I tend to think it may be more of a natural process that happens over time. Not to say that we don't have an effect on our environment, but we also need to realize that our view of climate change really only goes back to a small portion of time that the earth has been around. One millenia from now, will humans say, "We're causing climate change in the form of global cooling." One thing to remember is that nothing in this world is constant and everything depends on many different variables, not just one source. Think about it, then form your own conclusion. See where it leads you. You'll be surprised of the vast amount of knowledge you'll gain by actually doing more research instead of just pinning on the human scapegoat.
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18. 69Viking
11:44 AM CDT on June 05, 2008
1283. WPBHurricane05

I missed the link for the software, which post was it please if you don't mind so I can go back and get the link?
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17. groundswell
4:41 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
16.

Would you be talking another solar system?
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16. StormJunkie
4:36 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
11.

There is no question that one day this planet will no longer support us whether due to GW or other demises. Which leads us to the real issue, do we want our race to continue? And if the answer is yes then we need to look at setting up some forward bases rather quickly imho...
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15. pottery
12:32 PM AST on June 05, 2008
Thanks, Dr. Masters.
Interesting stuff there.
In the meantime, at 11n 61w looking east, all is quiet on the Eastern Front.
The wave we were looking at, around 40 w, is struggling with dry flyaways.........

( whatever happened to those, anyway ? LOL)
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14. Brillig
4:25 PM GMT on June 05, 2008
I think that 5-23 meters should be 5-23 MILES, should it not? I found another reference to the same study that said 12 MILES per decade.

Edit: I see now the article was referring to altitude, not latitude, which was addressed elsewhere in the article.
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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.

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