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

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

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.


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


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.

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World’s Largest Wind Turbine Starts Generating Power For First Time

On Tuesday the world’s largest and most powerful wind turbine swung into gear at the Danish National Test Centre for Large Wind Turbines in Østerild. The prototype V164-8.0 MW wind turbine is 720 feet tall, has 260-foot blades, and can generate 8 megawatts of power — enough to supply electricity for 7,500 average European households or about 3,000 American households.
A joint venture between Vestas and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the turbine is slated to go into production next year and was designed to take advantage of the growing offshore wind industry across Europe.
“We have now completed the production, testing, and installation of the V164-8.0 MW as planned, thanks to the team’s intense effort during a time when Vestas has reduced its investments and lowered fixed costs,” Anders Vedel, Chief Technology Officer for Vestas, said. “We now look forward to evaluating the turbine’s performance on site.”
According to the European Offshore Wind Industry, 418 offshore turbines came online last year, providing 1,567 MW of capacity. That brought the total offshore wind capacity in Europe to 6,562 MW with just over 2,000 turbines, enough to provide 0.7 percent of the EU’s electricity. The European Offshore Wind Industry estimates that by 2020 Europe’s offshore grid should have a capacity of 40 gigawatts and by 2030 it should have 150 gigawatts, enough to provide 14 percent of the EU’s electricity demand.
Britain has the most installed offshore wind capacity with 3.68 gigawtts while Denmark is a distant second with 1.27 gigawatts.
Vestas is Europe’s second leading wind turbine manufacturer, after Siemens, a German company. As of last year Vestas had installed 27 percent of Europe’s offshore wind turbines, or 547, compared to Siemens’ 1,249, or 60 percent.

I emphasized this quote because I feelit itis particularly telling:

enough to supply electricity for 7,500 average European households or about 3,000 American households.

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 225. yoboi:
As life in Valdez, Alaska, marches on after an avalanche cut off the tiny port city’s only highway, transportation officials are monitoring another hazard: A half-mile-long lake now pooling behind the avalanche that has the potential to cause flash flooding and damage to homes.


Thank you yoboi for the link concerning the avalanche and the situation in Valdez. I sure hope that the temperatures there return to normal soon in order to preserve the snow. Lets hope that the flooding won't be too serious.
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Quoting 235. Birthmark:

Oh, was that great! Her final response reminded me of Lee J. Cobb in Twelve Angry Men: "How does he know how long fifteen seconds is? You can't judge a thing like that!" LOL

Curry responds:

I don’t see any further point to this exchange…

Right, quit before I really get embarassed.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Denialists sometimes claim that the people making money off of climate change are the climate scientists (and of course Al Gore!), but maybe that's not quite accurate.........

Link Interview on NPR with journalists McKenzie Funk about his new book Windfall:

In Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming, journalist McKenzie Funk looks into how some entrepreneurs and even some nations stand to benefit from a changing climate. He talks with Fresh Air's Dave Davies about some of his subjects, ranging from investors buying water rights and farmland around the world, to private wildfire protection services for affluent homeowners, to the nation of Greenland, which will be able to exploit new mineral deposits as its ice melts.

Funny how the climate scientists don't see to be in his list. Some of the comments are worthy of WUWT. Despite the stories of how people intend to benefit from climate change, some commenters are still arguing it isn't happening. Sheesh!
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Regional and global projections of twenty-first century glacier mass changes in response to climate scenarios from global climate modelsLink

A large component of present-day sea-level rise is due to the melt of glaciers other than the ice sheets. Recent projections of their contribution to global sea-level rise for the twenty-first century range between 70 and 180 mm, but bear significant uncertainty due to poor glacier inventory and lack of hypsometric data. Here, we aim to update the projections and improve quantification of their uncertainties by using a recently released global inventory containing outlines of almost every glacier in the world. We model volume change for each glacier in response to transient spatially-differentiated temperature and precipitation projections from 14 global climate models with two emission scenarios (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5) prepared for the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The multi-model mean suggests sea-level rise of 155 ± 41 mm (RCP4.5) and 216 ± 44 mm (RCP8.5) over the period 2006–2100, reducing the current global glacier volume by 29 or 41 %. The largest contributors to projected global volume loss are the glaciers in the Canadian and Russian Arctic, Alaska, and glaciers peripheral to the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Although small contributors to global volume loss, glaciers in Central Europe, low-latitude South America, Caucasus, North Asia, and Western Canada and US are projected to lose more than 80 % of their volume by 2100. However, large uncertainties in the projections remain due to the choice of global climate model and emission scenario. With a series of sensitivity tests we quantify additional uncertainties due to the calibration of our model with sparsely observed glacier mass changes. This gives an upper bound for the uncertainty range of ±84 mm sea-level rise by 2100 for each projection.
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More Tamino versus Curry:

Judith Curry responds … sort of

Let’s be crystal-clear what the issue is. The issue is temperature in the Arctic, not some sector of the Arctic, not some season in the Arctic, and the real issue (the point of dispute) is: temperatures since 2000 compared to temperatures in the 1930s (and/or 1940s if you wish). Don’t let anybody — not Judith Curry, not me — get away with avoiding the issue.

More ...
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Enough hockey sticks for a team

One of the persistent denier myths is that the Hockey Stick (usually meaning Mann et al. 1999) has been discredited. Not only is that myth false but Mann et al. (1999) has been validated through the publication of numerous hockey stick graphs since 1999. Here is a brief list of the ones I know:

All 30 of them with links ...
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
The other answer to heating your house is to properly insulate it. Insulation technology is good enough nowadays that you can heat an entire house with just a small fan heater or a small log burner. The trick, of course, is making sure you have a foot of insulation in the walls and under the house and triple glazed windows.
Retrofitting the old stock is time consuming and somewhat expensive, but possible even on early 20th century brick built London houses.

If building for yourself, you'd be a fool not to do it because it'll pay for itself in a decade or a bit over in reduced heating/ cooling bills.

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Quoting 221. cyclonebuster:
Tom Steyer is running a commercial tonight to coincide with the SOTU:



That's a powerful ad, cyclonebuster. Hope it creates some buzz.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
220. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting 203. DaveFive:
Solar is one way, wind power is another way to heat our homes. We will no longer need coal, gas, wood or oil, once all the communities in the world accepts the renewable energy sources that are available now, such as wind power and solar as well as other environmentally safe renewable resources.

It's The Wave Of The Present As Well As The Future.

I agree.. There was an argument made maybe yesterday that moving in that direction would freeze people out because we wouldn't keep up with gas & such infrastructure.. This cold has brought wind.. I can see the wind farms on in the midwest on radar they have been turning so fast. Wind & Solar can provide power on or near spot, not across lines that could be tore down by weather. People are doing without now because fleet trucks can't get gas to them through the foul weather.. The argument was exclusively to America when the argument could be made the fossil fuel companies do as little as they can in every nation they are in to maintain pipelines.. Look what happened today. Pipeline in Canada exploded & burned for 12hrs. It's left 4000 people without power in dangerously cold weather. This comes just a few days after a huge explosion near Winnipeg occurred that has affected more than 100,000 American customers.
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Seeing the environmental forest

The last time the Earth had a 15-year cooling trend of any kind...
I was asked by a friend to identify the last time the Earth experienced a 15-year cooling trend. The way I answered this was to use a rolling regression on GISS surface data (R code at the bottom). Turns out that the last time was before I was born. The period from February 1958-January 1973 (cooling of -0.00188C per decade) was the last 15-year cooling trend in GISS surface data. Every 15-year period since has shown a warming trend of some magnitude%u2014and yes, that even includes trends starting in 1998.

Figure 1. Graph of temperature trends over each 15-year period. Each point represents the trend over the preceding 15-year period.

More(including R code)...

Added caption to graph
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 214. CuriousAboutClimate:

If there is no warming, then why do I get a positive slope when I run a linear trend through temperature data?

don't. just don't. this has been pointed out a million times, and he keeps coming back to the same lie.

just "-" his post. why reply and give him what he wants?
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Quoting 211. Cochise111:

Might have something to do with the fact that there is no warming and, despite the hundreds of billions spent by governments wanting a New World Order, the public sees through the charade.

If there is no warming, then why do I get a positive slope when I run a linear trend through temperature data?
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Quoting 211. Cochise111:

I see through the charade your presenting..
If you deny there is warming..
Then I don't see where anyone can help you here..
It's clear AGW is real..
Where's AGWSpeacialist?
You two run in tandem..
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Quoting 202. FLwolverine:
For discussion purposes:

uknowispeaksense writes today that "adaptation is all we have" Link and links to this report from the World Economic Forum:

Climate Adaptation: Seizing the Challenge

Two points from the summary:

1. Reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases are not happening fast enough. Preparing societies for the impacts of climate change, i.e. adaptation, must therefore happen in tandem with mitigation efforts.
3. Up to 65% of the increase in the projected losses due to climate change could be averted cost effectively through adaptation investment.

I read through that link this morning, FL - thanks for seeding it here.

The authors are right, of course - we have to begin preparing for the coming changes now. But this paper focuses on the very near-term effects of climate change (next few decades).

Here's one thing I wonder about: global trade. Most of that trade is carried by ships. Those ships need ports, and ports are huge, expensive pieces of infrastructure (besides just the water management and docking issues, decent roads and reliable power sources are required - etc).

So they aren't easy to move. But they'll have to, because we see this (and IMO, it's an 'optimistic' view of sea level rise):

The rate of change is accelerating. One study predicts, with a 95% confidence level, that our oceans will eventually rise more than 30 feet.

Norfolk is already have serious problems, and it isn't alone. How are we going to adapt our existing infrastructure for rising seas? How will countries that can't grow sufficient food for their populations (due to increasing frequency of heat waves, drought, flooding, etc.) survive without functioning ports?

The climate vulnerability indices identified in that paper also made for some interesting reading this morning. I was unfamiliar with most of them.
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From The Shovel:

Climate Change No Longer A Threat, Reader Poll Confirms

Those concerned about climate change can rest easy, following a reader poll in a popular newspaper that revealed the phenomenon is no longer a serious threat.

In fact, an extensive review of public research found that the effects of climate change peaked in late 2007, with a year-on-year decline ever since.

“The work that’s been done in recent years has reduced climate change to about 40% of its previous potency, and it’s likely to fall further this year. We’re beating this thing,” one commentator explained.

Experts are hopeful that, with the help of ongoing public awareness campaigns, climate change may be eliminated altogether by 2016.

The Shovel is Australia’s satire news website. For more, follow The Shovel on Facebook and Twitter.
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Quoting 206. yoboi:
10 cities most threatened by disaster


Good article thanks. One thing often unmentioned in articles like that that will become more critical (that I think anyway) in the future is going to be aiding the elderly both evacuating before a disaster and getting them medical attention afterward. Looking at that list of cities at risk according to Swiss RE half of their top ten cities at risk are in a couple of the most rapidly aging countries in the world (2 in China and 3 in Japan). That's a problem likely to compound both conventional and climate related disaster planning in the future. Just curious if anyone has seen any studies on what climatic dangers we will have that especially threaten the elderly as compared to the general population? Besides the young and sickly I'm thinking this will be the other group especially threatened by climate disasters
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Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 154. Neapolitan:
A follow-up to this from Christopher Burt:

"The 51° [yesterday in Nome] was the warmest temperature since 1907 to have ever been observed between the dates of Oct. 17 (55° in 1969) and April 9 (52° in 1940)."

Yes, in January...
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
For discussion purposes:

uknowispeaksense writes today that "adaptation is all we have" Link and links to this report from the World Economic Forum:

Climate Adaptation: Seizing the Challenge

Two points from the summary:

1. Reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases are not happening fast enough. Preparing societies for the impacts of climate change, i.e. adaptation, must therefore happen in tandem with mitigation efforts.
3. Up to 65% of the increase in the projected losses due to climate change could be averted cost effectively through adaptation investment.
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From Climate Reanalyzer:

"I do not intend to post about the same thing all the time.

But the forecasted warm temperature anomalies across the Arctic might be record breaking. Today's forecast for February 1st shows a +7.24 °C anomaly!

...I just keep thinking this warm winter over the Arctic is going to leave the sea ice very thin for the upcoming melt season."

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
It's minus 6 tonight in Michigan, and some fellow Wolverines are asking me if the weather in Florida will be good enough this week to justify coming down here. Unbelievable!

PS They have decided to come.
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189 - This article, Texas to proceed with water lawsuit against New Mexico, courtesy of Brian and etxwx, is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, apropos the discussion yesterday about the Mann lawsuit, this is a case of original jurisdiction for the US Supreme Court. One article I read points out that the case will probably be referred to a special master, but I don't know enough about SCOTUS procedure to know if the master would handle the trial itself or just the pre-trial proceedings (motions, discovery, scheduling, etc). Texas had to request permission to file a complaint.

From the original filing by Texas: Link

The State of Texas, in support of its Motion for Leave to File Complaint, submits the following:
Texas seeks to invoke the Court%u2019s original jurisdiction to obtain a determination and enforcement of its rights as against the State of New Mexico to the waters of the Rio Grande pursuant to the Rio Grande Compact, 53 Stat. 785 (1939) (hereafter %u201CRio Grande Compact%u201D or %u201CCompact%u201D).

The complaint and brief are really well written and give a lot of background on the water allocation problems in the southwest, although you have to remember it's only one side of the story.

Second, this conflict is the shape of things to come in the Southwest - too many people, too many needs, not enough water. Here is some additional background in a newspaper article from 2013 when Texas filed the case in the Supreme Court: Link

Added: for future reference :-) here is the link to the SCOTUS docket page for this case Link

Well, ok, I do get a little carried away with the law sometimes. But since I can't contribute that much on the science aspect here, I do what I can.
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And a much better, simpler source

WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin (courtesy of no1der)
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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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