Are the changes in the Arctic messing with our weather? Analysis

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 9:20 PM GMT on January 26, 2014

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Are the changes in the Arctic messing with our weather? Analysis

In the last blog, I promised an analysis of why I conclude that what is happening in the Arctic makes it to my list of the big-ticket items of the past year.

I want to start with the work of Jennifer Francis and her collaborators. Professor Francis gave an excellent seminar in my department last week, which can be viewed here. This seminar uses as a foundation the paper Francis and Vavrus (2012), Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes. There is a whole set of coherent and convergent evidence that documents the changes in the Arctic. There is an increase in temperature, which is much greater in the Arctic than at lower latitudes and in the tropics (Polar or Arctic amplification). This has led to large changes in Arctic sea ice and springtime snow cover. There has been a lengthening of the growing season and an increase in activity in the northern forests – the greening of the Arctic (200 blogs ago, Getting Ready for Spring 5).

In the past, roughly, 15 years, there has been an observed change in the of the Arctic sea-level atmospheric pressure (see previous blog). The pressure is slightly higher, which leads to a weakening of the stream of air that flows around the North Pole. I wrote a tutorial about this in Wobbles in the Barrier. Also in the past decade there have been a number of researchers, for example, Liu et al. (2012) who in Impact of declining Arctic sea ice on winter snowfall – noted circulation patterns that have “ … some resemblance to the negative phase of the winter Arctic oscillation. However, the atmospheric circulation change linked to the reduction of sea ice shows much broader meridional meanders in midlatitudes and clearly different interannual variability than the classical Arctic oscillation.”

These papers lead to a few questions. Are the changes in the Arctic sea-level pressure a direct consequence of local changes in the Arctic, or are they more closely related to changes in global circulation patterns? Are changes in the Arctic sea-level pressure causing changes in weather in the middle latitudes? Are the differences we have seen in the past 15 years indicative of a climate-change related differences in weather patterns? Is what we have traditionally called the Arctic Oscillation changing?

Trenberth and Fasullo are following the heat of the warming earth, with the primary goal of understanding of how much heat is contributing to warming the Earth’s surface air temperature versus how much is going to heating the ocean and melting ice and snow. Their focus is on approximately the past 15 years. Therefore, they pay attention to known ways that the atmosphere and ocean vary (Some previous tutorials: Still Following the Heat and Ocean, Atmosphere, Ice and Land). Trenberth and Fasullo document the strong influence of the 1997-1998 El Nino. El Nino typically has a large effect on global temperature. The 1997-1998 El Nino was especially large. Trenberth and Fasullo show that the temperature in the atmosphere and oceans still remembers the 1997-1998 El Nino. They also examine the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which is characterized by sea surface temperature differences being above (or below) average in the north-central Pacific while they are below (or above) in the north and east Pacific near the Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation has been in a pattern of being cooler than average in the north and east Pacific since the 1997-1998 El Nino. Trenberth and Fasullo document a pattern that spans the globe, and the changes in the Arctic are part of that pattern. Conversely, their analysis would suggest that the global aspects of circulation pattern are too large to be caused by changes in the Arctic – it just takes too much energy.

What might be a scientifically based difference between whether changes in the Arctic are part of a global pattern or caused by the loss of sea ice changing the absorption and reflection of solar energy is to some extent not relevant to the question about weather patterns over the U.S. My experience in scientific controversies of this nature is that there are usually both global and local pieces to the puzzle. Further, changes in the U.S. weather could be directly linked to changes in the Arctic as well as to global patterns. In both the Trenberth and Fasullo and the Francis and Vavrus (2012) analysis there are consequential changes in jet stream pattern which is strongly influential to weather in the U.S. and, in fact, all of the middle latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.

It’s not surprising that changes in the polar jet stream, the river of air that meanders around the North Pole, would have a profound effect on weather in the U.S. The waves that make up the weather systems of winter storms, for example, draw their energy from the environment that forms the jet stream. The jet stream steers these storms. In classes on dynamical meteorology, students learn that what is going on at the jet stream is often better information for forecasting weather than what is going on at the surface. Though there is a direct link between the jet stream and weather systems, the path of cause and effect in the changes in the Arctic, changes in the jet stream and changes to extreme events in the U.S. is not easy to map.

We have seen observations from Francis and Vavrus and Liu et al. (2012) that suggest large meanders in the jet stream. Both of these papers suggest that the scale of these meanders is unprecedented and does not fit easily into the framework we have used historically to describe the Arctic Oscillation - the primary way we describe correlated variability between the Arctic and the middle latitudes. In addition to the Arctic Oscillation, another characteristic we use to describe mid-latitude weather is blocking. Blocking describes a pattern of atmospheric flow, perhaps a particular configuration of the jet stream. Blocking slows or stops the normal west-to-east movement of storms around the Earth. Here is a nice description of blocking. Blocking is most common with high pressure, and high pressure is associated with the northern meanders of the jet stream. Note, blocking is associated with the meanders in the jet stream, but large meanders do not always mean that our definition of “block” is fulfilled. Blocking patterns are difficult to predict on a case-by-case basis. Blocking patterns are known to be associated with droughts, floods, heat waves and cold snaps. Therefore, when we look to a way that changes in the jet stream might change the weather over the U.S. we logically look a changes in blocking, which will discussed more fully in next blog.

r

Cold Weather in Denver: Climate Change and Arctic Oscillation (8)

Climate Change and the Arctic Oscillation 2

Climate Change and the Arctic Oscillation 1

Wobbles in the Barriers

Barriers in the Atmosphere

Behavior

Definitions and Some Background

August Arctic Oscillation presentation

CPC Climate Glossary “The Arctic Oscillation is a pattern in which atmospheric pressure at polar and middle latitudes fluctuates between negative and positive phases.”





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Quoting 43. Birthmark:

The Sandusky comparison sounds bad, but if I'm understanding correctly, those comments aren't really the major issue. The "molesting and torturing" of data and the accusations of fraud are the problems for the defendants. I think it will be child's play to demonstrate malice.

Assuming nothing bizarre comes out in discovery, I think Mann will win this pretty easily.


The quote goes something like this. "Simberg also called Mann "the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data."" Link
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 3446
Quoting 41. Naga5000:



CEI, Stimberg, Steyn, and the National Review are all going down. You can't compare a scientist to Jerry Sandusky and have no supporting evidence. They probably should have checked with their legal counsel before printing such nonsense.

The Sandusky comparison sounds bad, but if I'm understanding correctly, those comments aren't really the major issue. The "molesting and torturing" of data and the accusations of fraud are the problems for the defendants. I think it will be child's play to demonstrate malice.

Assuming nothing bizarre comes out in discovery, I think Mann will win this pretty easily.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting 37. Naga5000:
"Judge Says Websites Must Face Defamation Lawsuit For Calling Climate Scientist A %u2018Fraud%u2019" January 24 Link


Naga, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for posting this.

I had wondered how that case ended up, since the mainstream news never seems to publish much in the way of climate change news anymore (that, or it just gets buried by more "immediate" headlines). I was very heartened to read this, and it's nice to know that the judicial system looked at the facts in this case. I was especially interested to read this (emphasis mine):

"In 2009, however, a string of emails illegally obtained from University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom purported to show that (Michael) Mann and the climate scientists he worked with had manipulated the data. Investigations were conducted by more than seven organizations, from the National Science Foundation to Penn State %u2014 all of which said the allegations were baseless. Still, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli spent two years and $500,000 unsuccessfully suing to obtain more emails from the University of Virginia, where Mann had once worked. That investigation also came up empty."

That was $500,000 of taxpayer money down the drain...
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Quoting 39. yoboi:



What do you think will be the decision with this case???



CEI, Stimberg, Steyn, and the National Review are all going down. You can't compare a scientist to Jerry Sandusky and have no supporting evidence. They probably should have checked with their legal counsel before printing such nonsense.
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 3446
Quoting 36. yoboi:



I am not disagreeing with you... take a look at number 10 in the link.....explains the tactic/angle
It will be very interesting to see how this turns out...

Link

He's looking for a loophole. Doesn't look like he found one. lol

Pay the man, Steyn!
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
And the Judge's order. Link
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 3446
"Judge Says Websites Must Face Defamation Lawsuit For Calling Climate Scientist A ‘Fraud’" January 24 Link
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 3446
Quoting 34. yoboi:
flawolverine figured you might like this article because of our conversation the other day....


Trial, and Error


Link

This isn't a free speech case. It's defamation.

Whatever it is, I can't imagine a scenario in which insulting the judge is going to help him.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting 20. Neapolitan:
The first graph at the link--should you care to look--is a WFT selfie using the RSS (surprise!) and based on a starting year of 1997 (double surprise!)


But that's just it... they didn't always use 1997. They deliberately picked a different start year for each dataset to find the starting point that would cause a flat line. All under the guise of showing "how long it's been without warming." Once you use the same trend line lengths for each, you get a different story, as shown by Birthmark.

Some people are serial cherry pickers without hope of redemption.
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I don't know about the current hurricane season, but some of models suggest this likely in the future.


Quoting 2. GTstormChaserCaleb:
Hi Dr. Rood. Hope you are having a fine day sir. "The jet stream steers these storms." It's also what steers Cape Verde hurricanes away from the CONUS. Are you seeing any signs of the pattern changing this upcoming hurricane season, for example reverting back to a 2008 pattern or too soon to tell based on your intuition and model outputs?
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N.B. My blog is open to calm troll-free climate discussion :)
Member Since: August 9, 2011 Posts: 26 Comments: 8630
Quoting 17. ScottLincoln:
Whack a mole, whack a mole, whack another mole...


Member Since: August 9, 2011 Posts: 26 Comments: 8630
Quoting 24. AGWSpecialist:

Asking a question is harassment? Really? Didn't you recently ask me a second time what my handle meant after I ignored you the first time?
This'll be my last response to you, as I'm far too busy communicating science to the teachable to waste time on trollish types, so here you are: there's a world of difference between repeating a question one time when no answer was received the first time, and repeating a question simply because you don't like the answer.

Know what I mean?

For the good of the forum, the remainder of your anti-science comments--which is to say, most of them--will be appropriately flagged and ignored per the forum rules, and Scott's excellent suggestion.TTFN!
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13549
Quoting 24. AGWSpecialist:

Asking a question is harassment? Really? Didn't you recently ask me a second time what my handle meant after I ignored you the first time?


Yes, your intent was to harass. You did the same thing to me yesterday.
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For more proof that something is rotten in the State of Alsaka, look at this.

January 26, 2014



May 2, 2013



The image from last May is from: http://www.newsminer.com/news/local_news/although -ice-still-thick-nenana-ice-classic-workers-prep-f or/article_bcce05a2-b3c6-11e2-8636-0019bb30f31a.ht ml?mode=image
.

Note the caption: The Nenana Ice Classic tripod stands solidly in the Tanana River ice Thursday, May 2, 2013. There is no sign of wet spots or any indication the ice is weakening.
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Quoting 20. Neapolitan:
Against my better judgement, I took a peek at the WUWT page linked to in #7. All I can say is: how has Watts managed to find so many scientifically ignorant, intellectually dishonest, and ethically challenged people to a) write for him, and b) spread his nonsense around the internet?

The first graph at the link--should you care to look--is a WFT selfie using the RSS (surprise!) and based on a starting year of 1997 (double surprise!)


Imagine that!


Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting 10. AGWSpecialist:



Would you consider post #8 as directly addressing the link and refuting the contents? Or is that just another example of, "I don't like what I hear so I won't accept it"?

Science is about questioning data. It's time you learned that.
What on earth are you talking about? Just trying to clutter up the comments again?

Post 8 referred to snarky blathering in Post 3, a post that contained no data and tried in a very juvenile manner to put down Trenberth and Fasullo, two of the scientists Dr. Rood used as part of the foundation of the discussion in his blog post. It also linked to a right-wing political rant site, not a science site.

At a science blog like Dr. Rood's, only a fool would waste his or her time and bother to address or attempt to refute the contents of such a vitrolic, non-scientific, politically-motivated blog post by some fool who calls himself "2nd Amendment Texan."

Let the courts decide if Mann was defamed by the attacks against him. It's about time honest, dedicated, hard-working scientists got some relief from attacks by the right-wing denialist barbarians. (That's not a legal opinion - I'll leave such posts to FLWolverine, our resident attorney - but I do hope Mann prevails in this lawsuit.)
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Against my better judgement, I took a peek at the WUWT page linked to in #7. All I can say is: how has Watts managed to find so many scientifically ignorant, intellectually dishonest, and ethically challenged people to a) write for him, and b) spread his nonsense around the internet?

The first graph at the link--should you care to look--is a WFT selfie using the RSS (surprise!) and based on a starting year of 1997 (double surprise!)

Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13549
Quoting 7. AGWSpecialist:

WUWT is parody. Didn't you know? Well, you do now.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Whack a mole, whack a mole, whack another mole...
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Quoting 10. AGWSpecialist:
Would you consider post #8 as directly addressing the link and refuting the contents? Or is that just another example of, "I don't like what I hear so I won't accept it"?

Science is about questioning data. It's time you learned that.
Yes, part of the scientific process is questioning the data, and those data either being verified or set aside. But asking the same question for the 373rd time because you didn't like the valid answer you were given the first 372 times is in no way the same as scientific questioning; that's one of the many areas in which your "logic" fails. Badly. It is instead denialism. It's harassment. It's willful ignorance on display. It's counter-productive. It is, plain and simply, wrong.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13549
Somebody from the Denialist Clown Posse posted a link to Gareth Paltridge on the previous thread, here Catmando at Ingenious Pursuits comments on Paltridge's oped in the Quadrant, a right wing Australian magazine.

Overstating the irony

"Part of what being a true skeptic includes is the moment when you are alone with the mirror. Can you look at yourself and honestly say you haven't borrowed an argument from the very thing you are arguing against?

I haven't a clue who Gareth Paltridge is but he will be having sleepless nights if he ever reads this. That's because he has made a schoolboy howler. I don't mean that he starts his piece (archived) at WUWT by saying that global temperatures haven't risen for seventeen years when what he actually meant to say is that surface temperatures have risen but since I have chosen to cherry pick the starting point when there was a strong El Nino, it looks to the uneducated and the deliberately obfuscatory that no warming has occurred. It's a bit like starting an analysis of your savings account on the day that you had a payment from the estate of a maiden aunt which, the very next day, you spent on a second hand Aston Martin. Every month since, you have paid £50 into that account, sometimes taking some cash out to pay a bill or two. It looks wobbly but you have managed to keep the account going upwards most of the time. But to your crooked accountant, you haven't increased your savings one little bit. No, Mr Paltridge. You're wrong.

No, Mr Paltridge fails to notice the irony in this passage, thereby ensuring his inclusion in collections of schoolboy howlers for centuries to come (whoops, I've just tipped the irony meter off scale):

It is a particularly nasty trap in the context of science, because it risks destroying, perhaps for centuries to come, the unique and hard-won reputation for honesty which is the basis of society’s respect for scientific endeavour…"


Read more ...
Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 3344
Good post, Dr. Rood. Global warming continues unabated, regardless of what the denialists say. I remember last year the denialosphere was all excited about the Nenana Ice Classic, which set a (disputed) record. Link

This year the ice isn't doing too hot (no pun intended):



Compare this to March 3, 2013, when the tripod was set up:



Temperatures have been well in the 40s, with overnight lows only dropping into the 20s, in Nenana. These temperatures are more typical of Kentucky than the Alaskan interior. If this crazy weather keeps up, there's a real risk the current earliest break-up record of April 20, 1940 at 3:27 PM could be obliterated. Note 1940 is a leap year (with an extra day of melting), so the true record is probably April 20, 1998 at 4:54 PM.

Let's just hope things improve. Would hate to see temps in the 40s and 50s continue in Alaska and have the ice break when they go to install the tripod, thus putting people's lives at risk.
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Thank you for the updated blog entry Dr. Rood..
So observed Higher pressures in the Arctic disrupts and de-enrgizes the Polar Jet to an extent of Mid Lat. disruptions in atmospheric flow..
And the El-Nino of 1997-8 left such a footprint that the effects can still be measured..
Astounding..
Thank you for the analysis and passing that on..
I hope we don't see any El-Nino's soon..
But I realize thats not realistic..
Thanks again..
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6839
If the mods are feeling overworked, I honestly wonder exactly how difficult it would be to filter URLs in comments on a blog, and if it's WUWT, something from the GWPF, Goddard, or Spencers sites, the post just pops harmlessly into the ether.

To be honest, right now the situation is akin to a site devoted to paleontology with a couple commenters coming in with "Look, look! AiG says Stegosaurus and cavemen lived together!" day after day. It's ridiculous. You're not just being an open forum, you're giving anti-science equal footing and an equal platform to the real data. After the 507th time of debunking whatever Anthony Watts puts out on the internet, it's no longer reasonable to suspect that certain folks are honestly not aware that he's not a reliable source.
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Thanks, Dr. Rood. I appreciate your methodical, well documented approach to AGW/CC and the study and teaching of of the influence of Arctic climate and patterns on northern and mid-latitude weather. The extreme complexity of terrestrial climate and weather dynamics is a factor that I frequently mention, and personally find overwhelming. A common error in the comments is focus on a limited perspective of a complex subject. It is discouraging to see the denialists here flail about with bits and pieces of information and no attempt to link them in a coherent manner.

p.s. Would you please suggest to the moderators that when a question has been answered, or a challenge responded to, that trolls not be allowed to post the same request for an answer dozens and dozens of times? Such trolling, either to purposefully disrupt the blog or because of personal pigheadedness, buries the discussion of science and degrades what could be an excellent blog and discussion.
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Quoting 3. Cochise111:

You think you posted something relevant, and probably tried really hard. Unfortunately, it came out as a meaningless series of buzzes and clicks.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting 3. Cochise111:



Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 3344
Thanks, Dr. Rood.

Quoting RickyRood:
In addition to the Arctic Oscillation, another characteristic we use to describe mid-latitude weather is blocking. Blocking describes a pattern of atmospheric flow, perhaps a particular configuration of the jet stream. Blocking slows or stops the normal movement of storms around the Earth, from west to east. Here is a nice description of blocking. Blocking is most common with high-pressure, and high pressure is associated with the northern meanders of the jet stream. Note, blocking is associated with the meanders in the jet stream, but large meanders do not always mean that our definition of "block" is fulfilled. Blocking patterns are difficult to predict on a case-by-case basis. Blocking patterns are known to be associated with droughts, floods, heat waves and cold snaps.


There's currently a major block in the southwestern United States, shifting rainfall further north, causing unprecedented drought in California and Nevada. Normally, this is California's wet season, and after tying their all-time high last summer in Las Vegas, Nevada, they've broken their longest number of days without precipitation, with a drought disaster declared all the way up to Reno.

Interesting times ahead...
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Quoting 3. Cochise111:
Trenberth and Fasullo aren't following the heat, but making up reasons why they can't find it. Most of the theories are ridiculous. As an aside, looks like Mikey Mann will be cross-examined under oath. That should be interesting. For those on this blog who criticized the standard legal practice of the defendants filing a motion for dismissal, let me remind you something. Mark Steyn and National Review have parted ways. Steyn said the bills for his defense are already topping $500k. Who on this blog has that kind of cash to mount such a defense? I probably would have filed the same motion or represented myself.

Link
When, oh when, will some people learn? Folks keep going after Mann, and they've yet to make a single thing stick.

One. Single. Thing.

One denialist tactic that, sadly, worked for awhile was hounding and harassing scientists as a way of casting aspersions on the science. We saw it happen with cigarettes; we saw it happen with fluorocarbons; we're seeing it happening now with CC/GW. The difference now is, however, that more and more people are becoming aware of such underhanded tactics, which is in turn making denialists more and more desperate, and that's leading them to do more inane and--frankly--stupid things. Those who inhabit the denialist echo chamber obviously convince themselves, otherwise; I suppose they have to keep their spirits up. But science has won. The gig is up.

Stop the fruitless witch hunts...

PS: links to "let's slit the throats of scientists" websites really aren't appropriate or appreciated..
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13549
Trenberth and Fasullo aren't following the heat, but making up reasons why they can't find it. Most of the theories are ridiculous. As an aside, looks like Mikey Mann will be cross-examined under oath. That should be interesting. For those on this blog who criticized the standard legal practice of the defendants filing a motion for dismissal, let me remind you something. Mark Steyn and National Review have parted ways. Steyn said the bills for his defense are already topping $500k. Who on this blog has that kind of cash to mount such a defense? I probably would have filed the same motion or represented myself.

Link
Member Since: February 9, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 346
Hi Dr. Rood. Hope you are having a fine day sir. "The jet stream steers these storms." It's also what steers Cape Verde hurricanes away from the CONUS. Are you seeing any signs of the pattern changing this upcoming hurricane season, for example reverting back to a 2008 pattern or too soon to tell based on your intuition and model outputs?
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Quoting 1472. schistkicker:
Well, time for Dr. Rood to update his blog with a new entry-- this comment section has been made entirely unreadable over the last 600 comments or so. What nuggets of actual information and data there are in the last several pages of comments are more than buried by a persistent troll who is more than content to fill space and 'filibuster', or "innocently" dump links to the climate-change versions of the Disco 'Tute or AiG webpages.

Does this place actually have active moderation? If so, shame on them; this place is suffering via inaction, and to the trolls it's just mission-accomplished.


Wish has been fulfilled!

Thanks for the fresh entry Dr. Rood.
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About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.