Jet Stream So Weak Winds Are Running From Pacific to Atlantic Across the North Pole

image

(Winds flowing north from just west of Hawaii, through the Bering Strait, over the North Pole and on into the North Atlantic as seen by NOAA’s GFS model and imaged by Earth Nullschool.)

This is a very odd pattern for global surface winds.

In the central Pacific, along a band above 20 North Latitude and about 500 miles west of Hawaii, a broad stream of easterly winds yesterday took a turn toward the north. The wind field was then pulled into a long frontal boundary spinning out from a large low pressure system off Irkutsk, Russian and driven on toward the Western Aleutian Island Chain.

The winds continued their sprint northward through the Bering Strait before being again captured by a low, this time over the East Siberian Sea. Sped on by this second nudge, the winds, running at 15-25 mph, spilled over the North Pole and into a third low spinning just north of Svalbard. This system shoved the winds southward over the North Atlantic and finally into a cyclone just north of England where the winds finally turned eastward, returning to the prevailing west-east global flow.

This is an epic journey in defiance of typical and prevailing weather patterns spanning thousands of miles and three oceans. It is decidedly not normal.

A Ruptured Jet Stream and A Flood of Winds Across the Pole

Typically, cold air over the polar region will insulate the Arctic from these kinds of circumpolar flows. The cold air to the north, warm air to the south, drives winds faster around the pole, creating a kind of wind wall that keeps south-north flows out of the Arctic. It is a pattern that tends to isolate Arctic air from the rest of the global air circulation to the south.

Jet Stream 30 July 2014

(Mostly disassociated Jet Stream with large rupture running north through the Bering Strait and on over the polar zone. Image source: University of Maine.)

But, during recent years, temperatures in the far north have been rapidly rising by in some cases as much as 0.5 to 1.0 degrees Celsius per decade. This heating of the polar zone, together with land and sea ice loss, has resulted in a weakening of the circumpolar wind pattern called the Jet Stream. This weakening has collapsed the wall keeping southerly winds from rushing over the Arctic as we see today.

The current pattern involves an extreme weakness and high amplitude wave in the Jet Stream extending from the Central Pacific and into the Arctic, extending well above the 80 degree North Latitude line. What remains of the cold air pool has been split, with some of the cold air mass shoved toward Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago and the remainder shoved toward the Kara Sea. Driving through it all is a wedge of warmer air accompanied with the southerly winds, winds that originated in the tropics near Hawaii.

Links:

Earth Nullschool

NOAA/GFS

University of Maine

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60 Comments

  1. Colorado Bob

     /  July 30, 2014

    Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

    Today
    High 82 | Low 49 °F
    10% Chance of Precip.
    Yesterday
    High 84 | Low 63 °F
    Precip. 0 in

    http://www.wunderground.com/weather-forecast/zmw:00000.1.71936

    Reply
  2. Colorado Bob

     /  July 30, 2014

    Japan Heat Wave Kills 15, Thousands More Are Hospitalized

    Japan has been gripped by a serious heat wave that has claimed the lives of at least 15 people, Yahoo! News reports, and another 8,600 people or so have been sent to hospitals with heat-related illnesses.

    Temperatures surpassed 95 degrees on Sunday, and on that one day alone, six people died from the heat, the report adds. More than half of those hospitalized were elderly patients – a frequent issue during Japan’s heat waves because about 25 percent of the country’s population is 65 or older, according to New York Magazine. Compare that to America, where 14 percent of the population is 65 or older, the magazine adds.

    http://www.wunderground.com/news/japan-deadly-heat-wave-20140730

    Reply
    • Very humid in these regions. This is the result of severe ocean warming in that region. Good find, Bob!

      Reply
      • Colorado Bob

         /  July 30, 2014

        207. ColoradoBob1
        11:44 PM GMT on July 30, 2014
        Let’s go back to Dr. Ricky’s last post –

        Monday It Will be 80 degrees in Yellowknife
        By: Dr. Ricky Rood, 6:49 PM GMT on July 13, 2014

        And what I just posted –

        Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

        Today
        High 82 | Low 49 °F
        10% Chance of Precip.
        Yesterday
        High 84 | Low 63 °F
        Precip. 0 in

        That was 17 days ago . The melting going on is relentless And it’s in Russia as well , remember the Arctic is warming as the fastest place on the planet. . There is no reason to think this speed-up will slow down. We’ve been watching it your years.

        The fact is all bets are off , things from now on out strip our past blue prints. All because of the speed we have added.

      • Sea ice seems to be fighting it pretty well this year. My bet is fresh water. The overall trend is brutal.

      • mikkel

         /  July 31, 2014

        I’m a pretty novice sea ice watcher, but it’s my understanding the ice transport and scattering is huge for melt. This year the dipoles have stayed so firmly in place that there is very little wind to facilitate and so the main ice pack is staying very stable.

      • Heat, compaction, transport have been the traditional melt mechanism. In the new state, I would add wave action and surface mixing with deeper layers. The Arctic has been quite calm this year. Remnant cold has retreated above the 80 north line. So though it has been much warmer in the 60s and 70s Lat regions, coolness above 80 north provides a bit of a refuge.

        Fresh water at the surface is also a bit of an ice sanctuary. And we’ve see quite a bit more of that lately.

  3. james cole

     /  July 31, 2014

    How do the events of the last two years compare to what climate models were predicting for this early in the global warming progression? I admit I am not aware of the state of climate modelling, but I used to read much about what was expected over the coming decades. Have the models that were being run only a few years back been blown away by events? I guess that is the question I am trying to ask. In light of how fast things have taken off, is it back to the drawing boards for long term climate modelling?

    Reply
    • Not entirely. The temp climate models are pretty accurate once you account for PDO and other variables. Deep ocean warming is faster than expected. Arctic warming is a bit faster than expected. Atmospheric warming, overall, a bit lower. Sea ice melt in the north is faster than expected. Sea ice growth in the south is mostly unexpected. Methane destabilization … Probably faster than expected but we don’t know enough to be sure.

      Ocean stratification — faster than expected. Ice sheet destabilization — faster than expected.

      Drought model predictions — about spot on. Fire model predictions — accurate. Jet stream changes — mostly unexpected.

      Overall, it appears more heat is going into the Arctic, the oceans and the ice than expected and that, overall, the system is more dynamic than the base model summary. Model accuracy in key areas continue to make them useful tools for prediction but it’s fair to say that unexpected events outside the model description have arisen. It’s probably fair to say that such variance outside the base model trend may continue to arise, but that the model context, overall, has been an important, though not perfectly accurate predictor.

      One last point to add is that many models provided indicators for the stronger trends that we do see, such as the preferential heat transfer to the deep ocean or the inertia to warming that develops at the edge of the large ice sheets, especially in the southern ocean, but also near a Greenland as melt rates intensify. So it’s also important to include that models seem to get heat/energy balance across the Earth system mostly right even if some of the granular and more dynamic elements are not captured.

      Reply
      • mikkel

         /  July 31, 2014

        You forgot a variable.

        Collaborative efforts at mitigation and adaptation — much lower than expected.

      • Oh, actually two.

        Human greenhouse gas emission — near top of worst case scenario.

      • lesliegraham1

         /  July 31, 2014

        “…Sea ice growth in the south is mostly unexpected….”

        The increase in seasonal Antarctic sea ice was predicted by Manabe et al 1991, nearly 25 years ago.

        “This is why sea surface temperature hardly changes and sea ice slightly increases near the Antarctic Continent in response to the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide.”

        http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/bibliography/related_files/sm9101.pdf

      • I should caveat by saying that models did indicate a degree of inertia in the southern ocean due to various mechanisms. The sea ice state, however, was not given a direct indicator in many of these model simulations, even though the notion of potential resilience or increase was mentioned in some discussion. Overall, I think the degree of increase and variability was somewhat unexpected.

      • Mark from New England

         /  July 31, 2014

        Robert,

        Great summary of the state of warming on various systems. May I suggest that someday this may make the core of a great article similar to Joe Romm’s “Hotter, Faster, Worser” from a few years ago, in which he summarized the then current understanding of warming on the sea ice, Greenland, fires, droughts, etc.

      • I’ve got a bit on this already. Hope to have something finished on a day that direct observation of predictive value hits a lull.

      • Also, added changes to the above statement for more clarity.

    • Colorado Bob

       /  July 31, 2014

      JC –

      It’s not the distance, it’s how fast we are crossing it. The largest city in Brazil has less than 100 days of water. They have driven the price LNG on the world markets , because water doesn’t flow in the damns turbines any more.

      19 million people running this test tonight.

      Reply
      • Colorado Bob

         /  July 31, 2014

        Another 45 million in Calf. , Az., Nev., Ut., N.M. ,Co., Wy., right behind them.

      • What’s funny was that the models were mostly right about drought progression. No-one really listened to the drought models because, well, they were among the worst future indicators. And now here we are.

      • mikkel

         /  July 31, 2014

        Unfortunately this is true. And they project massive regions of the world becoming more or less uninhabitable.

        It is odd that even with all of the record setting droughts, little is ever said about how they were predicted and what the 2050/2080 maps look like.

  4. Colorado Bob

     /  July 31, 2014

    The smoke at Yellow Knife may have killed every old smoker in the town. That’s how thick this summer has been , and there are 3 months left.
    All of it is still burning

    The wild fires in Russia are burning ever closer to the Arctic Sea.

    Unlike
    Quoting 178. Cochise111:

    Reply
  5. The Arctic Combover.

    Recommended for vain planets in middle age.
    Soothing warm jets will stimulate the regeneration of vegetation lost for many eons…

    Feel at least 360 million years younger!

    Reply
  6. Colorado Bob

     /  July 31, 2014

    It’s not the distance, it’s how fast we are crossing it.

    Reply
  7. Phil

     /  July 31, 2014

    Robert, any implications for arctic sea ice melt? There has been speculation on Arctic Sea Ice Forum that weather conditions conducive to less melt are a couple of days away although GFS might have done a recent black flip.

    Reply
    • If the low develops over Greenland, that favors ice retention and is generally a slow melt signal. The current melt signal is pretty strong but as you note, some models show a switch with the Greenland low emerging.

      Reply
  8. Burgundy

     /  July 31, 2014

    Does this tell us something about the health of the Hadley Cells? Do the climate models give any indication as to their future or what to expect?

    Reply
  9. This may affect also ocean wave height, wave formation and direction, thus could contribute to all kinds of Arctic phenomena and as mentioned temperatures. Though, it needs to be judged on further observations and how persistent this pattern is, ofc it is worth mentioning. Also how commmon/uncommon is this kind of atmospheric planetary wave? Regarding the winds, the Antarctic is very different, with the Katabatic winds (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katabatic_wind) and in comparison, changes at the other side of the globe ..

    From 2007
    Over the past four decades, the southern Westerlies—a ring of wind that encircles the southern hemisphere between 30° and 60° latitude—have become more intense and have moved closer to the South Pole in an ever-tighter ring around Antarctica. Whenever the Westerlies intensify—regardless of the cause—Antarctica tends to cool because surface air pressure inside the ring decreases (Marshall 2006). This is called adiabatic cooling and is the same reason that the temperature drops as one climbs a mountain. Although scientists are just beginning to study the physical mechanisms by which changes in the stratosphere affect ground-level climate (Baldwin et al. 2007), observations and model results both indicate that the greater amount of stratospheric ozone depletion over the South Pole compared to mid-latitudes has caused the southern Westerlies to shift poleward and intensify (Gillett and Thompson 2003; Shindell and Schmidt 2004). Since ozone depletion is strong over Antarctica but weak over the Arctic (Solomon et al. 2007), this strong cooling effect is unique to Antarctica. http://www.c2es.org/publications/current-understanding-antarctic-climate-change

    ~Chris

    Reply
  10. Mark from New England

     /  July 31, 2014

    If the Jet Stream gets any weaker we’ll have to rename it the “Single-Engine Prop Plane Stream”, or perhaps the “Hang Glider Stream”.

    Question: Is it possible that the jet stream may have behaved in a similar, meandering fashion at times over the past few decades, but that such behavior wasn’t noticed since there wasn’t a model like Dr. Jennifer Francis’ to account for it? Are we pretty sure this ‘drunken jet stream’ is a new phenomenon related to global warming?

    Reply
    • Francis indicates that the NH Jet has become more wavy with warming. Observation seems to bear this out with numerous high amplitude waves and large air masses moving across the pole. There is a bit of scientific conjecture over this, though. In the larger context, we know that the poles warm faster and that the temperature differential falls and that in end state warm climates the Jet would be sluggish or practically non existent. So we have the end state to consider and would expect a larger trend in that direction with warming. The ice sheet response throws a bit of a wrench into how this all works out as warming progresses, though, as some assessments seem to indicate a retreat and strengthening of the jet as we have seen in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s likely, however, that differing ocean and geographic configurations (Arctic surrounded by continents with a smaller ice sheet — Greenland — offset from the pole; and the massive ice sheets of Antarctica surrounded by a deep and stormy ocean) play a large role in how the changing atmospheric dynamic unfolds.

      Reply
    • Why not call it, the “Aerial Mississippi River”? It’s slow and winding and used to change course, until the USA Army Corps of Engineers stabilized it with levees.

      Reply
      • I have climate change deniers clamoring to get in on this one. The usual boatload of junk — cherry picking data and the usual fallacious attribution of global warming related phenomena to solar activity.

  11. Tom

     /  July 31, 2014

    http://robinwestenra.blogspot.co.nz/2014/07/methane-hydrates-in-south-atlantic.html

    Thursday, 31 July 2014
    Methane hydrates in South Atlantic

    First evidence of widespread active methane seepage in the Southern Ocean, off the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia

    Highlights
    •An extensive active seepage area was discovered north of South Georgia.
    •High input of organic matter leads to high rates of formation and emission of methane.
    •Gas emissions were restricted to glacially-formed fjords and cross-shelf troughs.
    •Seepage might be more common in polar and sub-polar regions than previously thought.

    AbstractAn extensive submarine cold-seep area was discovered on the northern shelf of South Georgia during R/V Polarstern cruise ANT-XXIX/4 in spring 2013.

    Hydroacoustic surveys documented the presence of 133 gas bubble emissions, which were restricted to glacially-formed fjords and troughs. Video-based sea floor observations confirmed the sea floor origin of the gas emissions and spatially related microbial mats.

    Effective methane transport from these emissions into the hydrosphere was proven by relative enrichments of dissolved methane in near-bottom waters. Stable carbon isotopic signatures pointed to a predominant microbial methane formation, presumably based on high organic matter sedimentation in this region.

    Although known from many continental margins in the world’s oceans, this is the first report of an active area of methane seepage in the Southern Ocean.

    Our finding of substantial methane emission related to a trough and fjord system, a topographical setting that exists commonly in glacially-affected areas, opens up the possibility that methane seepage is a more widespread phenomenon in polar and sub-polar regions than previously thought.

    Reply
  12. bassman

     /  July 31, 2014

    California Drought worsens significantly according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report. Can someone think of any other climate related event this year that will hurt the economy more than this drought. I suspect it really is the biggest news at least for the US this year.

    http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?CA

    Reply
  13. frunobulax718

     /  July 31, 2014

    What are the chances that the Jetstream will permanently stop altogether?

    What would the ramifications of such an event be?

    Reply
  14. john byatt

     /  August 1, 2014

    antarctica, not all as it seems http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4056545.htm

    Reply
  15. This drought will, in all likelihood, eventually fail. That said, California and the rest of the US are looking at far worse droughts to come.

    Reply
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