The familiar global weather patterns that we, our parents, and our grandparents (and most of our distant ancestors) have always experienced, are no more. We have entered an abrupt climate change phase. Our energized water-primed atmosphere and disrupted circulation patterns give rise to unfamiliar, massive and powerfully destructive storms, torrential rains, widespread heat waves, droughts, and widespread deep freeze cold spells.

The Deep Freeze

In this video, I discuss the severity and extent of the North American deep freeze resulting from fractured jet streams due to climate change. Also discussed is extreme stress on infrastructure (roads, rail, pipelines,…) from rapid 40 degree C temperature swings.


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Why is this deep freeze happening now? Sophisticated Earth System computer Models (ESMs), summaries of state-of-the-art peer reviewed climate science (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC), and mainstream science have generally put the climate change threat out to the latter part of the century. Global data from all parts of the world, but most noticeably the Arctic, shows that reality is quite different from these models and mainstream thinking.

Just by looking out the window much of humanity now senses that something is very different, and uncomfortably wrong. Depending on location, vegetation is drying out and burning, or being toppled by very high wind events, or oceans are invading coastlines, or rivers are overrunning banks or drying up or both, while rainfall deluges are inundating other regions.

Some regions are vacillating between massive floods and massive droughts, or record high temperatures and record low temperatures, even on a weekly basis. As crazy as things are now, clearly they are not bad enough to wake up the general population. We need a wake-up call to vote down denier politicians and demand extensive governmental action on the problem.

The Hammer of Extreme Weather

Not to worry, that much needed action is a sure bet in the near future. The only question is will it happen next year, or in 3 years? In the meantime, many of us are doing as much as we can to educate people on the dangers we face and speed up the understanding of climate reality. Ultimately it will be the hammer of extreme weather – causing global crop failures or taking out a few more cities in rich countries –  that will lead to an essential and abrupt tipping point in human behavior.

Deep FreezeThe key to the disruption in the climate system is the Arctic. Human emissions have inexorably increased levels of carbon dioxide and methane (greenhouse gases – GHGs) in the atmosphere causing an incremental increase of global mean surface temperature of 0.8 degrees C over the last century. In the last 3 decades, the GHGs have caused rampant warming in the Arctic accelerating the melting of land-covered snow and ocean-covered ice. Highly reflective surfaces have been replaced by dark underlying land and ocean, greatly increasing sunlight absorption and causing Arctic temperature amplification of 3x to 5x and higher.

This has melted permafrost on the land and on the shallow continental shelves and has increased Arctic methane emissions.  On a molecule-to-molecule basis, this phenomenon leads to a warming >150x compared to carbon dioxide on a short timescale.

Arctic temperature amplification has reduced the equator-to-Arctic temperature difference which drives the global circulation patterns of the rotating Earth. Thus, the high speed jet stream winds which circumvent the globe become slower, and wavier, and weather patterns change. Extreme weather events become stronger, more frequent, of longer duration, and act on new regions. In effect, the climate background has changed. When the climate system changes, all weather events change.

boomerwarrior
Source: NASA

So how does the North American deep freeze of January, 2014 fit into this picture? In our familiar climate, the polar jet stream flowed mostly west to east (with small north-south deviations or waves, with typically 4 to 7 crests and troughs around the globe) separating cold dry Arctic air from lower latitude warmer moist air. The latitude of the jet streams moves southward in our winter and northward in our summer.

In our present climate, the jet stream waviness has greatly increased and eastward average speed has decreased. Not only that, but in early January there were only two troughs (over North America and central Asia) and two crests (over Europe and the Pacific up through Alaska and the Bering Strait). The troughs had temperatures 20 degrees C cooler than normal, while the crests had temperatures 20 degrees C warmer than normal. These large waves and slowing of the jet stream are directly responsible for the changes we have been experiencing in weather extremes – cold or warm, depending on your location.

The winter of 2014 will be remembered as the Deep Freeze.

Other Posts by Paul Beckwith:

We Now Face An Angry Climate
Coming to Understand Climate Change
Alarming! Great Arctic Flush

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Paul Beckwith

 Paul Beckwith is a part-time professor with the laboratory for paleoclimatology and climatology, Department of Geography, University of Ottawa. He teaches second year climatology/meteorology. His PhD research topic is “Abrupt climate change in the past and present.” He holds an M.Sc. in laser physics and a B.Eng. in engineering physics and reached the rank of chess master in a previous life. More from Paul Beckwith’s Blog.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Al Gore has said that we need a concentrated effort like the U.S. put out in WWII. But let’s look at what it took to start that effort. Our good allies and basically all of Europe had been run over by the Nazis, and still the U.S. did nothing. It took the Japanese to demolish a U.S. Navy port, killing countless American lives to get the U.S. to act. Unfortunately we need something like that or it’ll be another 10 to 20 years before the required action is started and that may be too late unless you’re really old right now.

  2. Lee – Unfortunately that has been the story of mankind. Even catastrophic storms like Sandy, massive flooding and ongoing extreme weather events do not seem to get the public to force their politicians to take action. The public would rather focus on the Super Bowl, Rob Ford, Justin Bieber, etc.

    We are watching a train wreck happening with global warming, but still no action. I agree that we need a global warming 9/11 in the U.S. to galvanize people into action. Unfortunately, the sooner the better.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. The Arctic is warming disproportionately faster than the rest of the world. If the Polar cold air mass is not displaced somewhere else, (continents, as the oceans cool slower), than the world average would then take a profound jump in “average” which it is not allowed to do in a closed system of this magnitude. Weather on the other hand is driven by the daily interface of warm, cold, moist and dry. The larger the discrepancy the more intense the weather.

    • You’re right in saying the Arctic is warming faster than the Equatorial zones and indeed that is a huge problem. This explains in part the Polar Vortex phenomenon we witnessed this past winter. The other worrisome question is that the oceans are absorbing a lot of the heat generated by global warming in recent years. Land temperatures have leveled off but ocean temperatures are on the rise.

      • The transfer of heat is always greatest from the hottest to the coldest. It is the law. Think about that for a moment.

        Arctic warming faster than the tropics? What happens when the ice melts and is gone? As the Planetary land masses warmed, where did that “heat” go? It dissipated to the coldest places: Ice and oceans. As the oceans warm the heat again becomes stratified in localized areas. Think of the oceans as being “batteries” becoming charged with energy. Not electricity but heat. That heat is now beginning to resurface as witnessed by the impending El Nino but other new sources yet to be named. Check out this link and notice the much larger anomaly that el Nino parked in the NE Pacific. . Go to “Sea surface temperature/ anomaly” That puppy has been there for over 6 months that I know of.

        Now ponder the probable air currents, don’t forget to factor Coriolis force, that that “Pacific Hot Plate” might produce. Alaska warmer than the deep south. Snow in Memphis, rain in Anchorage? Warm air rises, –> the Arctic displacing cold –> the continents which cool faster than the waters. Dry in the SW USA?

        • The transfer of heat from coldest to warmest is, as you say, a law of physics. Energy is always transferred to another form – it does not disappear. El Nino might produce extreme weather events that are unprecedented. I will look at the link when you forward it.

          • Not holding my breath. It is not like I gave you a fleshed out article. I am a boat builder. Not a writer as I mentioned earlier.

            The NYT has a good article and I got a comment in. Here is another link to test with.

            Here is a comment from a meteorologic friend of mine that I use for fact checking even I get bend my pay grade. (Which is often.)

            “You’re basically right in your thinking and explanation, though I would have said it a little differently! One thing to remember about heat exchange is that it moves from one place to another by radiation, conduction, and convection. The first two processes, radiation and conduction, always see heat being transferred from the hotter body to the colder one. However, convection is the movement of fluids, including the oceans and the air, and even though heating initiates the flow by causing hot air (or water) to become less dense and more buoyant so that it rises, convection currents can transfer both colder and hotter air and water depending on how the convection sets up. So, for the air currents that you mentioned, hot air rises and cold air sinks and each type of air will move horizontally on the surface and aloft to replace the air in other places that either rose or sank depending on whether the area was hot or cold. And as you mentioned, one has to factor in the Coriolis Effect which makes the horizontal currents bend to the right around high pressure and to the the left around low pressure in the northern hemisphere. Your analogy about the oceans acting as batteries is a great one! Water has the greatest heat capacity of any known substance, so the oceans can store a tremendous amount of heat energy as you said. Warm pools in the ocean such as the one in the north Pacific do tend to send warmer air into Alaska by influencing the jet stream to form a big blocking high pressure ridge off the west coast. That same ridge causes dry air to continue flowing into the Southwest while causing all the moisture to flow into Alaska and British Columbia (Washington tends to clipped by it, too, though not as much as further north). Meanwhile, the jet stream flow coming off the western ridge causing a deep trough of low pressure to form over the plains and further east and that flow brings unusually cold air to the South and a lot of storminess to the East since another anomalous high pressure ridge has also been stuck over the Atlantic well off the east coast. And you’re definitely right about the continents cooling off much faster than the oceans once we get into fall and winter. And with the Arctic Basin being unusually “warm” all winter, the cold air tended to form over northern Canada and then slide south toward the plains and East all the way down to the Gulf coast as it followed the jet stream pattern that had set up in response to the distorted warming in the oceans. But I like the way you say things in a bit more poetic way!”

            http://cci-reanalyzer.org This is the site page without embellishments. What you are looking for:
            Sea surface temperature/Anomoly.

            Global Weather
            Monday,
            April 21st, 2014
            Air Temperature
            Average | Anomaly | Climatology
            Sea Surface Temperature
            Average | Anomaly | Climatology
            Precipitation
            Precipitable Water
            Surface Wind
            Jetstream
            Cloud Cover
            Snow and Sea Ice

      • People the world over have no problem accepting the fact that changing a relatively small patch of the South Pacific less than hand full of degrees F and the resultant El Nino river of warm waters across the pacific can have a profound change in yearly climates . Not only here in the USA but the Western Hemisphere but Europe and Africa as well. The reality of changing a much larger patch of the Arctic from supper cold ice to +32 F open waters on our boarders an assuming it will be inconsequential defies reason.

        While weather folks talk up El Nino, they are blind to other huge areas of warmth popping up here and there with the equivalent or even larger heat bubbles materializing hither and yon.That puppy in the Gulf of Alaska has been parked there for the winter that I know of and has not received one media mention to my knowledge. Have you noticed any unusual weather anomalies in Alaska, Siberia, North America, Europe, etc this past winter. (Siberia currently is battling wildfires and it is nearly spring.) Similarly there are other heat bubbles, though smaller, are not insignificant on the East Coast as well as scattered globally. Each has a tremendous amount of energy represented. Concentrated energy = localized weather disruption.

        While discussing this oversight the other day with my Net Cell I mentioned that the current possible El Nino which is sharpening up to be a “gum swallower,” as well as some of the other major heat bubbles would warrant a name of their own and suggested “Rouge El Ninos.” Another with sone language back ground found the Spanish term “Pillo” for rouge and suggested “El Pillo.” We all quickly liked the term and been hawking it and would like to see it have legs.

        That inspired me to pen a couple of ditties:
        El Pillos here
        El Pillos there
        El Pillos popping everywhere.

        Grab your hat
        Mend your boots
        El Pillo is growing roots.

        If you find the term appropriate feel free to run with it.

        Leif

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