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

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 6:25 AM GMT on December 08, 2013

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

I’ve been living with this cold weather in Colorado this week. If you look around at the Wunderground personal weather station sites, we’ve seen a lot of about -10 F at nights. It’s been causing a lot of grief for homeless people, animals and pipes. There have been a few record lows set. The whole Arctic air mass is starting to move east, which means it will get a lot more press. According to Jeff Master’s blog 80% of the country will be below average.

I thought I had finished my series of blogs on the Arctic Oscillation a couple of weeks ago, but this cold air out break takes me back. It that series I wrote about cold air in the Arctic that is isolated because of barriers caused by streams of rapidly moving air that flows around polar latitudes. I described wobbles in the streams that caused cold air to move south and warm air to move north. Here is one of the figures that I used.

Figure 1: This figure is from the point of view of someone looking down from above at the North Pole (NP). This represents a weak, wavy, wobbly vortex displaced from the pole. The vortex encloses cold air, represented as blue. The line surrounding the cold air is the jet stream or the edge of the vortex. (definition of vortex)

Figure 1 shows an idealized schematic of the North Pole as viewed from above. This is the weak vortex case, when there is a large wobble. In this case, the point X is cold and the point Y is warm. In a case of a stronger, more circular vortex, then the case would be reversed, with point X warm and point Y cold.

Here is a figure from the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), that I have marked up a bit. The colors are the temperatures at the 850 hecto-Pascal surface, which is about 1.5 kilometers above the surface. The 850 hecto-Pascal temperatures are a good indicator of where it is hot and cold at the surface.

Figure 2: This figure is from the point of view of someone looking down from above at the North Pole (NP). The contour lines on the figure are the height of the 500 hecto-Pascal surface, which is between 5 and 6 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. The colors are the temperatures at the 850 hecto-Pascal surface, which is about 1.5 kilometers above the surface. The 850 hecto-Pascal temperatures are a good indicator of where it is hot and cold at the surface. Figure from the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF)

I drew a blue arrow showing that the cold air at the pole has wobbled off of the pole and it is pushed towards Colorado. To the west there is warm air, red arrow, pushing up towards Alaska. So while it has been cold in Colorado, it has been quite warm in much of Alaska. Though a less prominent signal, there has also been warm air moving up the East Coast of the U.S. The Alaska – Colorado contrast is a nice real-world example of what I showed in Figure 1. For completeness with my example, the big, black dashed line is the jet stream of air flowing around the pole.

There were several points in my series on the Arctic Oscillation. The first important point is that even in a world that is getting warmer, the polar latitudes become isolated as the Sun goes down for the winter and jet stream intensifies. In this isolation it gets cold, because there is no heating from the Sun and the polar latitudes have a barrier between themselves and the warmer lower latitudes. The second important point is this wobble, the pushing of air off of the pole in some direction. In this case the coldest air is over Greenland, Canada and the U.S. If there is sufficient wobble to push the air far to the south or if it gets pushed to some place it did not get pushed before, then it is even likely to have record cold. These points are all work together and are not correctly viewed as independent events. (I was recently annoyed by the parenthetical dismissal of global warming in this otherwise nice prediction of early strong lake effect snow in Michigan. The statement was essentially pockets of cold Arctic air should not exist.)

I will finish with the Arctic Oscillation. The Arctic Oscillation Index from the Climate Prediction Center is shown in Figure 3. The discussion in my Arctic Oscillation series focused on the positive and negative phases of the Arctic Oscillation Index. Much of the attention was on the eastern U.S. The negative phase was when it is likely to be very cold in the eastern U.S.

Figure 3: Arctic Oscillation Index for early August 2013 until December 7, 2013 from the Climate Prediction Center

In this measure of the Arctic Oscillation Index, the most recent times have been weakly positive, tending towards negative. (Perhaps suggesting movement of the cold air towards the U.S. east coast?) Perhaps more important Figures 2 and 3 together show that large undulations with warm air pushing far northward and cold air displaced off the pole can occur in other parts of the world when the index is weak. As pointed out many other times over the years of this blog, what goes on in the U.S. is not good instantaneous editorial content for climate change.


Previous entries:

Climate Change and the Arctic Oscillation 2

Climate Change and the Arctic Oscillation 1

Wobbles in the Barriers

Barriers in the Atmosphere


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.”

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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Quoting 218. ScottLincoln:

We don't get -30F temperatures in Louisiana.

I though you were in Iowa for whatever reason. Sorry!
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China's Smog Problem Is So Bad You Can See It From Space

Parts of China are dealing with major air pollution issues right now. Officials in Shanghai closed schools and halted construction last week as pollution soared to hazardous levels. Concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) reached 602.5 micrograms per cubic meter on Friday, according to the Associated Press. The World Health Organization's safety guideline is only 25 micrograms.

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What happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic

"The Arctic caught a break, if you will, in 2013, but one year doesn't change the long-term trend toward a warmer Arctic," said report card editor Martin Jeffries, a University of Alaska geophysicist who is the science adviser to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission.

"This is simply natural variability," said National Snow and Ice Data Center director Mark Serreze, who wasn't part of the NOAA report but praised it. "There is nothing about the year 2013 that provides any evidence that the Arctic is starting a path toward recovery."

He added: "Looking back 20 years from now, the world will be warmer and we'll have much less sea ice than today. We'll see that 2013 was just a temporary respite."

More ominous are long-term trends, NOAA's report card said.

Average Arctic temperatures have increased 3.6 degrees since the 1960s, rising twice as fast as the rest of the world. The growing season has lengthened by nearly a month since 1982.

Fish species are moving north, permafrost is melting, and shrubs are greening in ways that weren't seen before.

University of Virginia environmental scientist Howard Epstein warned that changes in the Arctic reverberate around the globe.

"The Arctic is not like Vegas," he said. "What happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic."

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Why is Antarctic sea ice growing?

Recently NASA reported that this year%u2019s maximum wintertime extent of Antarctic sea ice was the largest on record, even greater than the previous year%u2019s record.

This is understandably at odds with the public%u2019s perception of how polar ice should respond to a warming climate, given the dramatic headlines of severe decline in Arctic summertime extent. But the %u201Cparadox of Antarctic sea ice%u201D has been on climate scientists' minds for some time.

Continental v. sea ice
First off, sea ice is different to the %u201Ccontinental ice%u201D associated with polar ice caps, glaciers, ice shelves and icebergs. Continental ice is formed by the gradual deposition, build up and compaction of snow, resulting in ice that is hundreds to thousands of metres thick, storing and releasing freshwater that influences global sea-level over thousands of years.

Sea ice, though equally important to the climate system, is completely different. It is the thin layer (typically 1-2m) of ice that forms on the surface of the ocean when the latter is sufficiently cooled enough by the atmosphere.

From there sea ice can move with the winds and currents, continuing to grow both by freezing and through collisions (between the floes that make up the ice cover). When the atmosphere, and/or ocean is suitably warm again, such as in spring or if the sea ice has moved sufficiently towards the equator, then the sea ice melts again.

Read more at The Conversation ...

In my opinion, one important point that the article leaves out is that the big difference between the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice has to do with albedo effect. The change in planetary albedo that comes with Arctic sea ice loss is significant, and it's something to be very concerned about. But there is almost no change in the Antarctic sea ice minimum, and thus there is little to no change in planetary albedo at the south pole, positive or negative.

Deniers keep focusing on the Antarctic sea ice maximum as if it actually means anything at all. The maximum occurs during the late southern winter when there is very little sunlight hitting the pole, and thus any increase has a very small albedo effect related to it.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 226. Birthmark:


You didn't read the "study", did you? If you did you would know why I'm LOL'ing at your post.

Cochise111 probably did read it only to not comprehend what it was saying.

Since there is "megafossil" evidence that there were large forest fires in Colorado before the industrial revolution, large forest fires can happen without human involvement. Natural causes are all that is needed to explain large forest fires in Colorado. ..... Well, I guess that fairly well sums it up then. I guess I will take a break now. ... Fresca, anyone?
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Quoting 166. Cochise111:
Science is about evidence, fair skepticism, and honest investigation into claims based on them. If climate science really is in such disarray as the deniers claims, then why do so many resort to misleading tactics so often? Why post misleading graphs, why cherry-pick data, why engage in egregious ad hominems, why send out emails about papers that say the opposite of what the paper actually concludes? If their claims are correct, then why even risk the perception of impropriety?

Source: Phil Plait
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See what I mean?

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These no name obfuscaters wouldn't know a Scientific Paper or a Truth if it smacked dem right in their pie Hole's.

: )
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Quoting 215. StormTrackerScott:

Are you ready for -30 degree temps? If not then get ready!

We don't get -30F temperatures in Louisiana.
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Quoting 214. ScottLincoln:

The blog moderators are slow to ban trolls. We have to self-moderate. 10 flags to hide a troll post, that's what they say, anyway.

Are you ready for -30 degree temps? If not then get ready!
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Quoting 197. Birthmark:

You keep making the same nonsensical claims, despite having been shown scientific evidence to the contrary. At this point, it is apparent that you are merely disseminating disinformation. You aren't here to discuss. You aren't here to learn. You certainly aren't here to teach.

Your posts are nothing more than anti-science propaganda. Why you aren't banned from this blog for such activity is a bit of a mystery to me.

The blog moderators are slow to ban trolls. We have to self-moderate. 10 flags to hide a troll post, that's what they say, anyway.
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Quoting 198. BaltimoreBrian:
!!! The Golden Horseshoe Award: Jaworowski and the vast CO2 conspiracy
That level of deception, deceit, and self-promotion is astonishing. And certainly award-worthy. I guess yoboi's "real science" filter failed him again!
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I am not known for staying out someone's "stuff", even when I try to ignore them :))

When I log in here from work, I sometimes forget to sign in and then I get to see a lot of clutter I otherwise have filtered out. I read some today, just to fill an otherwise open mind (with trash, apparently).

Just what kind of serious harm can result from switching to a different source of energy?? Less CO2? Cleaner skies in China? An oil company goes under but a solar farm is built? What? Oil is a non-renewable resource anyway, and ask 10 experts how long till we run out and you will receive 10 different answers, as there are many ways to define "out" and a million reasons we might use more or less. What harm can it do to prepare now for an inevitable future?

Think of the example of peak oil- there is still controversy surrounding when or if it has happened, but you don't hear many say it will never happen. Reality says a time will come when humans will need to use other sources of energy than fossil fuels. What then? Be prepared and saves billions of lives, or wait and let it happen?Link


Note- oil production has exceeded what was predicted in the first link, but growth is slowing down and is inevitable.
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Human Contributions to Global Warming:

The null hypothesis is:

The majority is anthropogenic.

The percentage contribution to global warming over the past 50-65 years is shown in two categories, human causes (left) and natural causes (right), from various peer-reviewed studies (colors). The studies used a wide range of independent methods, and provide multiple lines of evidence that humans are by far the dominant cause of recent global warming. Most studies showed that recent natural contributions have been in the cooling direction, thereby masking part of the human contribution and in some cases causing it to exceed 100% of the total warming. The two largest human influences are greenhouse gas (GHG) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions, mostly from burning coal, oil, and natural gas (sulfur emissions tend to have a net cooling effect). The largest natural influences on the global temperature are the 11-year solar cycle, volcanic activity, and the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

The studies are Tett et al. 2000 (T00, dark blue), Meehl et al. 2004 (M04, red), Stone et al. 2007 (S07, green), Lean and Rind 2008 (LR08, purple), Huber and Knutti 2011 (HK11, light blue), Gillett et al. 2012 (G12, orange), and Jones et al. 2013 (J13, pink). The numbers in this summary are best estimates from each study; uncertainty ranges can be found in the original research.

Source: SkepticalScience

Note: Links to all the paper referebce are available at SkS
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Quoting 198. BaltimoreBrian:
!!! The Golden Horseshoe Award: Jaworowski and the vast CO2 conspiracy

Thanks BB, I started looking for that, you saved me the time.
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Quoting 201. Birthmark:


It's interesting how the anti-science zealots grasp any piece of propaganda in their effort to deny reality --even if it contradicts their other propaganda. lol
It's a mandatory requirement of denialism to be able to hold any number of contradictory beliefs at the same time, to the denalista it's simple as ABCD(anything but carbon dioxide).
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Quoting 199. yoboi:

If we go by what you are saying....then there is no way to have a % that humans impact the climate......

Yoboi, do you even realize what just happened here? You officially lied. To EVERYBODY. And you don't even have the courage nor wherewithal to admit it. You simply deflected critical analysis of your lies, and then you changed the subject.

This was NOT about the established null hypothesis that humans are responsible for the increase in global temperatures. This was about YOUR alternate hypothesis, and how you failed to test it scientifically.

And then you lied about it.

You do not understand the scientific process, yoboi.

You don't even understand common professional courtesy.

I submit your alternate hypothesis has not been successfully tested under mathematical rigor, and is therefore invalid.

Furthermore, based on your inability to apply universally-accepted scientific convention to your alternate hypothesis, yet still claim it to be true, I submit your methods, procedures, and conclusions to be fraudulent

Have a good evening, and enjoy your thoroughly de-bunked and invalid alternate hypothesis.
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Re: 194

I will believe the poster who is the object of that post when that poster starts changing his life and livelihood to match his beliefs.

He's claimed to be a farmer. Fine. Hold back and plant your crops a month later next year than this year. And whether they're fully grown, harvest a month earlier. Don't do multiple crops in a year unless they'd fit in the shortened growing season.

Live your beliefs. Then publish the results so the rest of us have some added comedy in our lives. Until then, you're showing yourself to be a fraud.
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Quoting 195. Birthmark:


Precisely. There was no thermometer there in 2010 so there's no record.
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Quoting 189. yoboi:

Humans can only impact the climate by 10 % at most....with solar 25 coming we will see temps from being nearly static for the past 17 yrs to a cooling trend....Also the clouds will have an important role.....And the heat is not all the sudden trapped in the ocean......I will have to admit that is a good MO to use when you have failed computer model predictions....It's almost like saying the dog ate it.....The AGW half-baked predictions are not coming true.....The poles are not ice free, there is no 16 yr long El Nino, Miami is not 2 feet under water etc......

Solar 25? Again? Yoboi, you cannot perform a test of an alternative hypothesis based on future data that you have not yet collected. You MUST have a primary data set that you observed and collected yourself, and on which you performed a statistical test.

Is this something your "science filter" understands?

Regardless, even if you had data, your alternate hypothesis that global warming is only 10% human-caused implies that you have rejected the established null hypothesis, that being that global warming IS caused by humans.

In statistical analysis:

"If you test a null hypothesis (H0), reject it, and then think that you have proven H0 to be false, you have deceived yourself. To think that a “p < α” result disproves the null hypothesis is to forget completely that a Type I error can occur whenever the hypothesis testing procedure yields information that causes H0 to be rejected.

"The only way a particular H0 can be proven false (or true) is to know the precise numerical value of the population parameter(s) specified in the null hypothesis. However, sample data do not provide that kind of information. Instead, summaries of sample data (e.g., the sample mean) are nothing more than estimates of population parameters (e.g., μ), and the two are likely to be different due to sampling error. Therefore, to think that sample-based information can prove H0 wrong is to disregard the inferential guesswork that’s involved in hypothesis testing."

In other words, you can't disprove something and call it false when you don't know the exact, mathematically-truthful answer yourself.

You can claim a null hypothesis to be false, but without producing precise and mathematically truthful data to back that claim up, you have committed a Type I error.

A Type I error has a statistical definition, and occurs when we believe in a falsehood. (Link)

Conclusion: Human-induced global warming is the best, mathematically-sound explanation of why the planet's average temperature is warming at a rate roughly ten times faster than the average rate of warming when the planet last recovered from an ice-age. (Link from NASA)

Simply stating otherwise without any truthful data to back you up makes your statement false.

Repeating false statements in an effort to make them appear true through repetition is called a lie.
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Quoting 187. Daisyworld:

Alright, yoboi. Since you claim to know what real science is, why don't you tell everyone here what your alternate hypothesis is compared to the current established null hypothesis, that being the current global warming trend is caused by humans?

Once you have told us what your alternate hypothesis is, please tell us how you tested it, and what your conclusion is.

Thanks in advance.

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Very well stated Nathan! (astrometeor)
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Quoting 186. yoboi:
Record high temperature in 1913; record low in 2010


1. Mr. Morano can't even seem to get the numbers right. -135.8 isn't the cold record for Antarctica, that would be -128.6 set back on July 21, 1983 at Vostok Station.

2. If you're going to cherry pick data like that, can I use my two years as an example? On July 4, 2012 in Nashville, TN the temperature was 103 for the high. The next year (July 4, 2013), on the same day, the temperature was 71 for the high. Both are records, one a record maximum high, the other a record minimum high. That's quite extreme if I may say so myself. To set a record on the same day in back-to-back years is quite remarkable.

Of course, this is GLOBAL warming or climate change. So, my site is only a drop in the over-flowing river of data.
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Today's selection of articles about science, climate change, energy and the environment.

Earth's Future: Navigating the science of the Anthropocene

!!! Knowing the unknowns

!!! Enormous earthquakes 'are missing' from records

*** Esa's Cryosat mission detects continued West Antarctic ice loss

* Dinosaur asteroid 'sent life to Mars'

Plant in Court Case Moves to Comply With Law It Fought

!!! Earth 'may be doubly sensitive' to CO2

New Strain of Bird Flu Packs a Punch Even After Becoming Drug-Resistant

Arctic Cyclones More Common Than Previously Thought

Rising Mountains Dried out Central Asia

* Teens Publish Studies On Pest-Killing Wasps, Berry Fungus

New Evidence for Assessing Tsunami Risk from Very Large Volcanic Island Landslides

Carbon Capture Technology Could Be Vital for Climate Targets

*** Supervolcanoes Discovered in Utah: Evidence of Some of the Largest Eruptions in Earth's History

Runaway Process Drives Intermediate-Depth Earthquakes

Post-Sandy, Long Island Barrier Systems Appear Surprisingly Sound

Urban Sprawl Threatens Water Quality, Climate Protection, and Land Conservation Gains

Climate models show changes for Rio Grande Basin

* The Mystery of Lizard Breath: One-Way Air Flow May Be 270 Million Years Old

!!! F.D.A. Restricts Antibiotics Use for Livestock

*** Bats may struggle to hunt in warmer world

Contrary to what your cats would have you believe, they do recognize your voice

Giant undersea cliff may hold clues to dinosaur-killing cosmic impact

What lives deep in Antarctica's buried lake? Here's what...

How 'round' is the electron? Physicists try to find out

China's Terracotta Warriors inspired by ancient Greek art

*** Giant blob of hot rock hidden beneath Antarctica's ice
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Quoting 140. yoboi:
My filter is set to real science.....Not some half baked predictions or failed computer models......

Alright, yoboi. Since you claim to know what real science is, why don't you tell everyone here what your alternate hypothesis is compared to the current established null hypothesis, that being the current global warming trend is caused by humans?

Once you have told us what your alternate hypothesis is, please tell us how you tested it, and what your conclusion is.

Thanks in advance.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
War Of The Worlds: When Science, Politics Collide

Scott Neuman | National Public Radio | April 17, 2012


"Often, the public does understand the science, they just don't like the answer..." (says Alan Leshner, head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) "I am fond of saying that the purpose of science is to tell us about the natural world, whether we like the answer or not."

That's what Brigham Young University geochemist Barry Bickmore found in 2010 when he tried to derail Utah legislation calling man-made climate change a hoax. Among other things, the resolution cited the "climategate" scandal in which stolen emails purportedly showed that climate scientists had manipulated data. The scientists were later cleared by an investigative panel.

Bickmore wrote letters and telephoned lawmakers to kill the bill, but it passed anyway. "They absolutely did not want to hear," he says. "It was all Republicans driving this -- every single Republican in the Legislature voted for the thing.

"It wasn't like they were responding to convincing arguments," he adds. "They were just listening to people who were telling them what they wanted to hear, and substituting their authority for the majority of experts."

Bickmore -- who is himself a conservative Republican -- sees the issue of climate change as a disaster for Republicans who he thinks will ultimately be blamed as the evidence becomes incontrovertible and the damage appears irreversible.
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We've Reached The Point Where Climate Change Deniers Need To Be Reminded That It Snows Every Year

Congressman Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) took to the House floor Tuesday to remind his colleagues that a snowfall in December does not disprove climate change, arguing rather "the fact that it is snowing simply means that it's snowing."

Huffman went on to call claims posited by climate change deniers "unscientific" and "reductive." He also pointed out that winter temperatures have steadily increased an average of .55 degrees every decade, "reducing snowpacks and creating water shortages across the country."

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House of Representatives holds 'factual' climate hearing and decides half of scientists are global warming deniers

Republicans in the House of Representatives on Wednesday held a so-called 'factual' hearing about climate change and used the testimony of skeptical witnesses to conclude that about half of scientists suspected global warming was a hoax.

At a Subcommittee on Environment hearing titled "A Factual Look at the Relationship Between Climate and Weather," Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) asked University of Alabama in Huntsville Professor John Christy - a well-known global warming skeptic - if it was really true that "percent of climate scientist think that climate change is real."

"No, not at all, - Christie replied. "The American Meteorological Society, by the way, did do a survey of its professional members and found only 52 percent said that climate change of the past 50 years was due mostly to human kind. So, 52 percent amount is quite small, I think, in terms of confidence. "52 percent said that climate change of the past 50 years was due mostly to human kind. So, 52 percent amount is quite small, I think, in terms of confidence."

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Dr. Ricky Rood's Climate Change Blog

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.

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