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 790. Birthmark:

I said nothing about minimum wage.

As I stated in the post above, Congress can address the moving jobs overseas issues --and they should have long before now.


How else would you increase labor cost?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
793. yoboi
Quoting 789. Birthmark:

Ah, see...the answer to that is in the US Constitution: Article I, Section 8

1: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States

Problem solved



When Clinton was President he did the opposite.....that's why we are in the situation we are in now.....
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2402
.."were reversing the process from which they formed"..

When the CO2 is Low, the temperature is Low, when the CO2 is High the temperature is High, moving together in Lockstep"

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 788. yoboi:



Before I comment about this...Is the top spinning clockwise or counterclockwise?????

That depends. Are you looking at the top from above or below?
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting 787. VAbeachhurricanes:


No way, driving the price of labor up only causes migration of businesses. Only about 4% of workers get paid minimum wage. That war is a false battle front, with many other more pressing economic issues at hand.

I said nothing about minimum wage.

As I stated in the post above, Congress can address the moving jobs overseas issues --and they should have long before now.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting 782. yoboi:


How is shipping more jobs to China essential to our economic well-being??????

Ah, see...the answer to that is in the US Constitution: Article I, Section 8

1: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States

Problem solved
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
788. yoboi
Quoting 774. pcola57:
#763..

Example..
Spinning top analogy..

First image..
Stable Climate..
Second..
Disturbed Climate..
Third..
Perturbed Climate..



Results..
First..
A climate with stable and repetitive Climate cycles..
Second..
Wobbly Climate cycles with extremes we are now beginning to see..
Third..
A world uninhabitable
Climate beyond supporting life as we know it....

Not this simple..
But relative..
My Last time yoboi..




Before I comment about this...Is the top spinning clockwise or counterclockwise?????
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2402
Quoting 780. Birthmark:

I do. I think driving up the price of labor is essential to our economic well-being. Such an increase just might make alternative energy affordable for many, too.


No way, driving the price of labor up only causes migration of businesses. Only about 4% of workers get paid minimum wage. That war is a false battle front, with many other more pressing economic issues at hand.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 783. Patrap:
The World needs to get together, to face the problems that attack us as a unit.



I really like Asimov's mutton chop side burns..

"The message is Clear"..
:)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I placed it in a variety of fluids.... Vinegar seemed to work the best mixed with a little salt sometimes producing over one volt...
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20417
The World needs to get together, to face the problems that attack us as a unit.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
782. yoboi
Quoting 780. Birthmark:

I do. I think driving up the price of labor is essential to our economic well-being. Such an increase just might make alternative energy affordable for many, too.


How is shipping more jobs to China essential to our economic well-being??????
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2402
Quoting 777. VAbeachhurricanes:


correct, but a copper and zinc alloy wire would be much more efficient then a row of pennies.


I ground off one side of the copper.... So copper and zink were both exposed... So each penny became a battery..
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20417
Quoting 751. VAbeachhurricanes:


I don't think driving the the price up of anything is what this country needs right now.

I do. I think driving up the price of labor is essential to our economic well-being. Such an increase just might make alternative energy affordable for many, too.
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
Quoting 770. Naga5000:



Oh I know, but our public aint so smart sometimes. :) I am not suggesting the government institute authoritarian policy, but energy policy should definitely be more geared towards renewables anyways. Let's not pretend fossil fuels are infinite.
If this was framed from the get go as an issue of renewables allowing the U.S. to become energy independent and a world leader of future energy production instead of policy being dictated by big coal and oil, we might be in a different position.
Well, the best start would be to elimate all the subsidies and tax breaks that the gas, coal petroleum industries are getting. Renewables would be doing fine on a level playing field.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 776. VAbeachhurricanes:


All I know is we have gigantic deserts with 350 sunlight days a year, spend a billion dollars a year. (Which is nothing if you look at the budget) Adding, maintaining solar panels and building infrastructure to carry the produced energy. It would be amazing.


Let's run for congress. :)
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 3622
Quoting 775. cyclonebuster:


Well actually I think the current came from the dissimilar metals in the penny one being zink and the other being copper... A small battery with a constant current...


correct, but a copper and zinc alloy wire would be much more efficient then a row of pennies.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 770. Naga5000:



Oh I know, but our public aint so smart sometimes. :) I am not suggesting the government institute authoritarian policy, but energy policy should definitely be more geared towards renewables anyways. Let's not pretend fossil fuels are infinite.
If this was framed from the get go as an issue of renewables allowing the U.S. to become energy independent and a world leader of future energy production instead of policy being dictated by big coal and oil, we might be in a different position.


All I know is we have gigantic deserts with 350 sunlight days a year, spend a billion dollars a year. (Which is nothing if you look at the budget) Adding, maintaining solar panels and building infrastructure to carry the produced energy. It would be amazing.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 773. VAbeachhurricanes:


Yeah its called a copper wire...


Well actually I think the current came from the dissimilar metals in the penny one being zink and the other being copper... A small battery with a constant current... Similar to what a thermocouple produces but with much more voltage and current...
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20417
#763..

Example..
Spinning top analogy..

First image..
Stable Climate..
Second..
Disturbed Climate..
Third..
Perturbed Climate..



Results..
First..
A climate with stable and repetitive Climate cycles..
Second..
Wobbly Climate cycles with extremes we are now beginning to see..
Third..
A world uninhabitable
Climate beyond supporting life as we know it....

Not this simple..
But relative..
My Last time yoboi..

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 771. cyclonebuster:
I did an experiment today with a penny.... I got .8 volts from it with .6 miliamps.... I figure if I wire 150 them in series I can get 120 volts DC with 90 miliamps.... I can then get a DC to AC converter and get some AC power from it.... If I scale it up to 1,500 pennies I can get 120Vac with it and .9 amps....If I scale it up again to 15,000 pennies with 120V ac I can get 9 amps from it..... Of course there would be some line losses but that is pretty significant if you run it 24/7/365.... I was very easy to do...


Yeah its called a copper wire...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I did an experiment today with a penny.... I got .8 volts from it with .6 miliamps.... I figure if I wire 150 them in series I can get 120 volts DC with 90 miliamps.... I can then get a DC to AC converter and get some AC power from it.... If I scale it up to 1,500 pennies I can get 120Vac with it and .9 amps....If I scale it up again to 15,000 pennies with 120V ac I can get 9 amps from it..... Of course there would be some line losses but that is pretty significant if you run it 24/7/365.... It was very easy to do...
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20417
Quoting 768. VAbeachhurricanes:


Well, that's up to the public. It will be the public's money they are spending.



Oh I know, but our public aint so smart sometimes. :) I am not suggesting the government institute authoritarian policy, but energy policy should definitely be more geared towards renewables anyways. Let's not pretend fossil fuels are infinite.
If this was framed from the get go as an issue of renewables allowing the U.S. to become energy independent and a world leader of future energy production instead of policy being dictated by big coal and oil, we might be in a different position.
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 3622
Quoting 762. Naga5000:



I fully support a government subsidized program to promote more green energy such as Germany has implemented. The key is to start weening as soon as possible, quitting cold turkey is impossible.

This means also subsidizing individual households with solar not just the power companies.

This will take money to fix and this is one area I feel the government should be willing to spend for.


Well, that's up to the public. It will be the public's money they are spending.
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Quoting 765. yoboi:



No.....Brrrrrrr


If this keeps us, you'll have to raise polar bears instead of grow rice.
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 3622
Quoting 764. pcola57:


( sigh.. )
Some people don't get out very much, never learned LA ain't the world or the meaning of global.
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765. yoboi
Quoting 764. pcola57:


( sigh.. )



No.....Brrrrrrr
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2402
Quoting 763. yoboi:
7th Coldest January In Louisiana History, Coldest In 35 Years



Link


( sigh.. )
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
763. yoboi
7th Coldest January In Louisiana History, Coldest In 35 Years



Link
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2402
Quoting 760. VAbeachhurricanes:


Well that is comparing the long run economy to the short run. Of course over the long run the cost will be cheaper, but the family living pay check to pay check can't afford a rise in electricity and gas. No matter how small. There has to be a way to encourage the use of other materials by making them cheaper, not discouraging the use of oil and coal by making them more expensive.



I fully support a government subsidized program to promote more green energy such as Germany has implemented. The key is to start weening as soon as possible, quitting cold turkey is impossible.

This means also subsidizing individual households with solar not just the power companies.

This will take money to fix and this is one area I feel the government should be willing to spend for.
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 3622
Quoting 756. Physicistretired:


The costs of 'fixing' the impacts of climate change are so much greater than the costs of avoiding it that you'd be hard-pressed to find any economist - right or left - that would disagree.

See, for example, this, this, and this.

I leave you with this:



And this, proposed 5 years ago now, by Dr. James Hansen:

Cap‐and trade is a hidden tax. 

"An accurate name would be cap‐and‐tax, because cap‐and-trade increases the cost of energy for the public, as utilities and other industries purchase the right to pollute with one hand, adding it to fuel prices, while with the other hand they take back most of the permit revenues from the government. Costs and profits of the trading infrastructure are also added to the public’s energy bill.

Fee‐and‐dividend, in contrast, is a non-tax. The fee collected at the first sale of oil, gas and coal in the country does increase the price of fossil fuel energy. But 100 percent of the fee is distributed monthly to the public as electronic deposits to the bank account or debit card of all legal residents, with half shares for children, up to two children per family."



So much more at the link.



Well that is comparing the long run economy to the short run. Of course over the long run the cost will be cheaper, but the family living pay check to pay check can't afford a rise in electricity and gas. No matter how small. There has to be a way to encourage the use of other materials by making them cheaper, not discouraging the use of oil and coal by making them more expensive.
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What's the solution?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20417
Quoting 749. Physicistretired:


Inaccurate.

If costs (both monetary, via legal hurdles - and political, via substantial resistance) are high enough, the project becomes unviable.

That's kind of the point here.
Do you really think Canada is just going to let it sit there? One way or another it will be shipped out either by other pipelines [some which are being built (Enbridge Energy)] or rail which is expanding very rapidly.

The tar sands shows no sign of slowing down with or without this pipeline much like North Dakota.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 751. VAbeachhurricanes:


I don't think driving the the price up of anything is what this country needs right now.


The costs of 'fixing' the impacts of climate change are so much greater than the costs of avoiding it that you'd be hard-pressed to find any economist - right or left - that would disagree.

See, for example, this, this, and this.

I leave you with this:



And this, proposed 5 years ago now, by Dr. James Hansen:

Cap‐and trade is a hidden tax. 

"An accurate name would be cap‐and‐tax, because cap‐and-trade increases the cost of energy for the public, as utilities and other industries purchase the right to pollute with one hand, adding it to fuel prices, while with the other hand they take back most of the permit revenues from the government. Costs and profits of the trading infrastructure are also added to the public’s energy bill.

Fee‐and‐dividend, in contrast, is a non-tax. The fee collected at the first sale of oil, gas and coal in the country does increase the price of fossil fuel energy. But 100 percent of the fee is distributed monthly to the public as electronic deposits to the bank account or debit card of all legal residents, with half shares for children, up to two children per family."



So much more at the link.

Member Since: December 21, 2013 Posts: 0 Comments: 231
Quoting 749. Physicistretired:


Inaccurate.

If costs (both monetary, via legal hurdles - and political, via substantial resistance) are high enough, the project becomes unviable.

That's kind of the point here.
Jonathon Chait makes the case that the best thing for the President to do vis-a-vis Keystone is nothing.

"The only way they won't start pumping their oil is if we keep the project in limbo. Well, that's the environmental solution, isn't it? Don't approve the pipeline, but don't reject it, either. Every time Canada starts to get exasperated enough to start building other pipelines for its oil, then send out hints we might just let them build Keystone after all, which will rile up environmentalists and trigger more delays. Just keep jerking Canada around forever. If they complain, we can keep arresting more of their pop stars."
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The Keeling Curve

A daily record of atmospheric carbon dioxide from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego

Latest CO2 Reading

398.05 ppm

January 30, 2014

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Quoting 749. Physicistretired:


Inaccurate.

If costs (both monetary, via legal hurdles - and political, via substantial resistance) are high enough, the project becomes unviable.

That's kind of the point here.


I don't think driving the the price up of anything is what this country needs right now.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting 747. Naga5000:


Tramp, you're never far from my thoughts. :) Wait are you a good thing or a sense of dread?
Naga, would you like some Tums too?

(Spill over from Birthmark's blog)
Member Since: January 6, 2013 Posts: 3 Comments: 2404
Quoting 745. tramp96:

It's going to get there either by rail or by pipeline take your choice.


Inaccurate.

If costs (both monetary, via legal hurdles - and political, via substantial resistance) are high enough, the project becomes unviable.

That's kind of the point here.
Member Since: December 21, 2013 Posts: 0 Comments: 231
Quoting 738. barbamz:
Sad video ...


If I understand what I saw and read there, Barb, the UK is witnessing a battle between old-school 'environmental' groups, working to 'protect' natural settings via reduced dredging, and the new realities of climate change/extreme weather/much-needed-mitigation.

I'm unfamiliar with that situation. Is my summary accurate?
Member Since: December 21, 2013 Posts: 0 Comments: 231
Quoting 746. tramp96:

You forgot to mention me!!!


Tramp, you're never far from my thoughts. :) Wait are you a good thing or a sense of dread?
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 3622
Quoting 739. VAbeachhurricanes:
The worlds great, we are on the brink of a double dip recession, now the jet stream is getting all kinky, and I have a terrible feeling about the Olympics.

What a time to be alive...



Its easy to be overwhelmed by our world. I try to focus on the good stuff when things get tough, like my wife and family, my job, my continuing education.

I have the same weird feeling about Sochi however, and a sense of dread about the evolution of the human condition.
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 3622

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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.