New Video: Climate, Jetstream, Polar Vortex

January 7, 2014

This is the first video to include interviews conducted at the American Geophysical Union  Fall Meeting in San Francisco in December.
I started out with a focus on what we were hearing about extreme events, then took a little jog when the latest extreme even presented itself – our current polar vortex, which is a pretty good textbook example of the kind of weather that we may be seeing more of, paradoxically, in this case, cold snap made more likely by increasingly lazy jet stream flow.

The video above contrasts arctic cold and snow in the east with mild temps and droughts in California.

Complete report on  drought from California TV station KSBW below.

Additional report now up on dry lakes in the California area.

The Hill:

Global warming may be contributing to the “polar vortex” causing frigid temperatures across most of the nation on Monday, according to some climate change researchers.

While it seems counter-intuitive, the research argues that plunging temperatures could come from changes in the jet stream caused by climate change.

Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer A Francis has released a number of papers about changes in the jet stream brought about by warming Arctic temperatures.

Her conclusions suggest that warming Arctic air caused by greenhouse gas emissions has caused changing to the jet stream that is pushing colder Arctic air further south, causing temperatures to plunge from the High Plains to the Deep South.

The jet stream shift has sent frigid air across the central part of the country, and deeper into the south than normal.

Alaska, meanwhile, is being hit by unusually warm conditions and California is facing record-breaking drought, Francis said.

She said the strange weather is becoming more likely because of climate change.

“We can’t say that these are extremes are because of climate change but we can say that this kind of pattern is becoming more likely because of climate change,” Francis said.

NASA analysis has also drawn a link between the jet stream, climate change and colder temperatures.

A 2010 NASA analysis tied colder temperatures over the course of 2009 to an event similar to the wavy jet stream, called “Arctic oscillation” — a see-sawing pressure system over the North Pole. That oscillation pushed cold air to teh south.

The NASA analysis also said that despite cold snaps, and other weather changes being a part of naturally occurring patterns, they are still in line with a “globally warming world.”

 Washington Post:

Almost half of the Lower 48 will shiver under sub-zero wind chills Tuesday morning. Countless records will be set. Yet none of that means a thing about the existence of climate change, its severity or its consequences.

The breaking off of a large chunk of the polar vortex and its visit to the northern U.S. is a random event resulting from a serendipitous arrangement of weather systems. In short, the clockwise flow around giant areas of high pressure over Alaska and west of Greenland have forced the atmosphere’s steering currents to shove the vortex into the northern U.S.


It happened before humans dumped billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and will happen again.

This polar vortex excursion is a single weather event directly affecting about 2 percent of the world.

Climate change is measured by evaluating continental to global trends in weather over decades – not events happening over a few days in a little region.  For this reason, a fleeting cold wave (or snowstorm) over part of a continent should never be used as evidence for or against climate change.

The record shows winter temperatures have risen markedly in recent decades across the northern hemisphere.

In short, climate change has reduced the intensity/frequency of cold extremes averaged over time. But that doesn’t mean they’re over or have been eliminated. Events like the record cold in Europe in 2011 and this polar vortex event are clear examples of the exceptional cold weather extreme in a warming world.


(Were  it not for the build-up of manmade greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, I’d posit the extreme cold events we witness now would be even colder. In other words, take these same cold air outbreaks and project them on the climate of the 1800s, and they’d be more severe. We’d need a model to test that, but it’s an educated guess.)

The truth is that increasing greenhouse gases act to warm the globe and, on average over time, should take an edge off the cold.  But the planet is a really big, complicated place and the weather changes fast and randomly.  Conversely, the climate changes very gradually. Taking all of this together, cold shouldn’t come as a shock, nor should it have anyone second-guessing the reality of climate warming.


25 Responses to “New Video: Climate, Jetstream, Polar Vortex”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Peter, the video, and the Al Rokers must be getting through to the ignorant. As we were out in the “Vortex” taking a break from shoveling snow, my Tea Party neighbor remarked “something’s going on with the weather”, at which point I explained to him the science behind the vortex and how it was connected with AGW. And he actually LISTENED, nodded in agreement, and didn’t spout his usual Faux News and Rush DittoHead BS in return. One small step for man, etc.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      I don’t think this cold snap is having the effect deniers would like, in particular the “whiplash” element is starting to dawn on folks, IMHO

    • rayduray Says:

      Here’s something that your Tea Party neighbor might want to consider.

      Over the past 30 days (as of Jan, 10) there have been 997 new maximum high temperature records set in the U.S. as compared to 392 new minimum low temps.

      The recent polar vortex set a surprisingly small number of new cold temp records in spite of some new highs in media hype.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Yes, that’s something I explained to him. That we were having a spate of “weird weather” that was quite cold right now, but that the overall long-term temperature trend was still upward. I think he’s beginning to understand. And it doesn’t hurt that he spends several months a year in southern AZ, and has seen “weird weather” there as well.

    • Angus Bill Says:

      Sounds like a liberal that is blinded by the fact that any climate change must be man-made and therefore must be taxed. Weather researchers cannot draw any climate conclusions without having not decades of weather data, but centuries. This planet we enjoy is forever changing and yes, one can argue that man may and can accelerate the natural tendencies to change in a certain direction.

      As soon as you mention the WhiteHouse you have lost all credibility.

      • greenman3610 Says:

        “As soon as you mention the WhiteHouse you have lost all credibility.”
        Right. Because the President is from Kenya. Got it.
        Thanks for playing.
        ” a liberal that is blinded by the fact ”
        Actually, facts are not something that blind you – in fact, a wise man once said that
        they set you free.
        I’ll continue to be guided by facts – that’s my bias.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Angus Bill is not too coherent here, but that’s typical of mindless and science-ignorant conservatives. Did he mean to say the “belief” that climate change is man-made rather than the “fact”?. As Peter said, those of us who base our conclusions on rational analysis of factual evidence are not “blinded” by facts but empowered by them, and the fact that the type of climate change called AGW IS caused by man seems to blind only mindless conservatives like Angus Bill.

        How do I know that Angus Bill is a Mindless Conservative? For one thing, the words “liberal” and “taxed” that appear in his very first sentence. The Mindless Conservative must always politicize climate change and mention “taxes”—-it’s in the little book of “right wing-nut talking points” that they all memorize and parrot at every opportunity. The clincher is “as soon as you mention the White House you have lost all credibility”, which, as Peter points out, is just Mindless Conservative code-speak for the Marxist-socialist-communist-fascist-Nazi power-mad Kenyan dictator that has now been elected TWICE—-a fact that the sour grapes losers like AB just can’t seem to get over (particularly when everyone knows nearly all the country’s problems are George W. Bush’s fault).

        And “Weather researchers cannot draw any climate conclusions without having not decades of weather data, but centuries”? More evidence of Angus Bill’s ignorance there, since “weather researchers” (not the proper term either) do in fact have data going back millions of years about past climates on Earth, how and why they changed, and what the effects were. That’s why they’re worried now—the evidence all points in one direction, and the evidence of the past few decades DOES point in the direction that man HAS caused rapid change that does not bode well for the planet.

        “This planet we enjoy is forever changing and yes, one can argue that man may and can accelerate the natural tendencies to change in a certain direction”? If you put a “but” followed by some horsepucky on the end of that, it would sound like the “fair and balanced” foolishness that Faux News provides. It won’t wash here.

        I will close by asking “Why are you here on Crock, Angus Bill?”. Since you have said nothing of scientific significance here (and this is a site underpinned by science), and only made “political statements”, may I suggest that you go to one of the circular firing squad sites of the wing-nut right? You know, the ones where they pool their ignorance and pat each other on the back for being ignorant? Personal Liberty Digest would be a good fit for you.

  2. Really a nice post….!!! Thanks for sharing peter…!!!

    The graphs are so terrible…!!!

    Hope that this all stop and all well at the end….!!!

  3. […] @@ VIDEO: This is Not Cool: Climate, Jetstream, Polar Vortex, by Peter Sinclair, is a compelling, graphic, must-see, 7 minute zoom into how global warming is creating all this wild hot and cold weather, with incisive takeaways from some of the most reputable, articulate climate scientists out there. Check it out! […]

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