Dr. “Ricky” Rood is a  Professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences.

Dr. Ricky Rood on Weather Underground:

I want to start with the work 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 spring time 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, about 15 years, there is an observed change in the atmosphere of the Arctic sea-level 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 a number of papers, 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.”

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On the graph above, orange and red stuff is warmer than average, “average” being defined as the average on this date between 1979 and 2000. Blue/purple stuff is colder.

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FAIRBANKS AK
1156 AM AKST MON JAN 27 2014

…ALL-TIME JANUARY HIGH TEMPERATURES SET IN NORTHERN ALASKA…

A RECORD WARM AIRMASS HAS RESULTED IN MANY LOCATIONS TYING OR
SETTING RECORD DAILY TEMPERATURES ACROSS NORTHERN ALASKA THE PAST
SEVERAL DAYS. SOME LONG TERM STATIONS HAVE BROKEN ALL-TIME
JANUARY HIGH TEMPERATURES…INCLUDING DENALI NATIONAL PARK
HEADQUARTERS AND NOME. JANUARY RECORDS WERE LIKELY SET AT SOME
OTHER LOCATIONS BUT THEY EITHER LACK A LONG PERIOD OF RECORD OR
OBSERVED TEMPERATURES.

ON SUNDAY THE 26TH THE TEMPERATURE CLIMBED TO A SCORCHING 52
DEGREES AT DENALI NATIONAL PARK HEADQUARTERS. THIS IS THE WARMEST
TEMPERATURE EVER RECORDED AT THE PARK HEADQUARTERS IN JANUARY
DURING THE PAST 92 YEARS OF OBSERVATIONS. THE PREVIOUS RECORD FOR
THE MONTH WAS 51 DEGREES SET ON JANUARY 21ST 1961. FOR
REFERENCE…52 DEGREES IS THE NORMAL HIGH TEMPERATURE IN MID MAY
AT THE PARK HEADQUARTERS. THE NORMAL HIGH FOR JANUARY 26TH IS 11
DEGREES ABOVE ZERO.

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Figure 1: Adapted from Jim Hurrell – This picture is a schematic representation of the positive and negative phases of the Arctic Oscillation. In the positive phase the pressure is low at the pole and high at middle latitudes. This is the positive phase because if you calculate the difference between middle and high latitudes it is large. In the negative phase the pressure is not as low at the pole and not as high at middle latitudes. This is the negative phase because if you calculate the difference between middle and high latitudes it is small. The refrigerator suggests that this is like opening and closing the refrigerator door

Schools closed here in mid-Michigan due to wind chill. Alaska setting all time warm records.

Now that the planet has our attention for a moment, its a great time to learn about the stick we’re being beaten with.
I’m running some posts from Dr. Ricky Rood’s series that originally appeared on WeatherUnderground.  See yesterday’s post here.
First and foremost, I post stuff because I want to learn stuff, and Dr. Rood’s pieces fit that bill.

Dr. Rood is a Professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences.

Dr. Ricky Rood in Weather Underground:

In the previous blogs I used the CPC Climate Glossary to give the definition of the Arctic Oscillation. “The Arctic Oscillation is a pattern in which atmospheric pressure at polar and middle latitudes fluctuates between negative and positive phases.” This definition does not really do much for me. It’s one of those definitions that I imagine if I ask 10 atmospheric scientists to tell me what it means, I will get 12 answers. Therefore, I will draw a picture.(see above)

This figure helps me with the definition. I want to focus on the low pressure at high latitudes, which in this figure is drawn idealistically at the pole. In reality, it is likely to wander off the pole, a fact that will be important in the next blog. When the pressure is low at the pole, then there is a stronger vortex of air circulating around the pole. When the pressure at the pole is not as low, then there is a weaker vortex. In both cases, strong or weak vortex, the air generally moves from west to east.

For clarity, vorticity is a parameter that describes rotation in a fluid. A vortex is a feature in a fluid dominated by vorticity – that is it is rotationally dominated. Tornadoes and hurricanes are weather features that we often call vortices; there is an obvious circulation of air in these features. In the Earth’s atmosphere at middle and high latitudes rotation is an important characteristic of the flow, due to the rotation of the Earth. The reason air moves in the west to east direction for both the weak and strong vortex cases of Figure 1 is that the rotation of the Earth is important to the flow.

In Figure 2 I have set up an even more idealized figure. I also provide this link to a Powerpoint animation, that I am not smart enough to incorporate into the blog. In the animation I have five slides that clarify the point that I make in Figure 2.

Figure 2: A vortex and a ball. In the center of the figure is low pressure, meant to be an analogue to the vortex over the pole in Figure 1. Parcels of air move around the low pressure system. If it takes the same amount of time for a parcel farther away from the low pressure center to go around the vortex as a parcel nearer the center, then the parcel farther away has to go faster because the distance it has to go is longer. That is why I drew that arrow, saying that air moves “faster” at the outside edge of the vortex.

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The Daily Californian:

A week after declaring a drought emergency, Gov. Jerry Brown called California’s current drought “a stark warning of things to come” in his State of the State address Wednesday.

Brown’s emergency drought proclamation follows the beginning of the state’s third consecutive year of severely dry conditions, which could be the driest year California has seen in almost 500 years, according to B. Lynn Ingram, a UC Berkeley professor of earth and planetary science.

Despite Brown’s request for all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water consumption by 20 percent, Ingram, who researches climate change, believes increased water prices or usage restrictions ought to be implemented to ensure a change in individual behavior.

“It’s almost like the tragedy of the commons,” Ingram said. “People don’t often respond individually when it comes to the conservation of a common resource unless you have some sort of regulation.”

So far, the East Bay Municipal Utilities District, which provides drinking water for 1.3 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, has not implemented water restrictions or increased its prices in response to the drought, according to Andrea Pook, an EBMUD spokesperson.

EBMUD has not declared a water shortage emergency based on its reservoir levels, which are 63 percent full in total, a level that is considered just below average.

“Although our reservoirs aren’t at alarming levels, what is alarming to us is the amount of precipitation we would normally receive,” Pook said. “In our rain and snow levels, we’re not seeing anything close to normal.”

Jeff Masters at Weather Underground:

If you’re wondering where California’s missing precipitation has been going, look northwards to the south and southeast coasts of Alaska.

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Fox News cares about clean water, for themselves and their babies. As for anyone else,  let them drink Kool Aid.

Al Jazeera:

Many West Virginians don’t blame the coal industry for the spill of a coal-processing chemical that has tainted the water of 300,000 people around Charleston, the state capital.

Indeed, some of those who live in parts of coal country — much of which is suffering from decades-long legacies of mining pollution — say coal is the state’s only hope for employment and progress.

To the outside observer, mining can look like a blight on the Mountain State, not a blessing, with dozens of white and gray scars of blown-off green mountaintops across southern West Virginia visible in satellite images from miles above.

But the feeling on the ground can be very different.

“This is just a freak accident with the water thing, in my opinion,” said Timothy McKinney, 30, a laid-off coal miner in Prenter, W.Va. “I’ve been in coal mining since I was out of high school, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the coal industry in general.”

McKinney said he is upset with the chemical company responsible for the spill, which was one of the most dramatic environmental disasters in recent memory in the area and the cause of national headlines.

He says Freedom Industries should have had better safety measures in place, including multiple walls of containment, to stop the accident. He said that would have halted the leak into the Elk River, which made his family’s water undrinkable for days and emitted a pungent, licorice odor into their homes.

McKinney said reports of rashes due to the contaminated water were “all over Facebook” in his community. But he didn’t connect the coal-processing chemical spill with the coal industry as a whole.
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jet0126

Dr. Richard “Ricky” Rood is a Professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences.

He’s been writing regular posts on Dr. Jeff Master’s Weather Underground site for some time. Recently Dr. Rood has posted some insightful and informative explanations of the Arctic Oscillaton and the now-famous “Polar Vortex” phenomena that has become a media buzzword in the wake of a severe cold snap, and has returned with a vengeance this week.

In early December of 2013, Dr. Rood described the process in the post below, and, at the end, accurately predicted the cold wave that hit the Eastern US a few weeks later.  I’ll be posting selections from his series this week as we shiver thru the arctic blast.

roodDr. Ricky Rood in Weather Underground:

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. 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. (definition of vortex)

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.

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sunteaI’ve posted about the awakening of a renewable energy movement among Republicans and Tea Party conservatives.  Even the New York Times is now recognizing this new reality – which is picking up steam..

New York Times:

…solar power is fast becoming one of the fracture lines dividing the conservative movement’s corporate and libertarian sides. The American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, which helps pro-business Republicans across the country write legislation, has successfully urged several states to fight federal mandates for adopting renewable energy like solar power. This month, it published a resolution calling for states to “require that everyone who uses the grid helps pay to maintain it and to keep it operating reliably at all times.”

To Mr. Goldwater (Jr., son of conservative 1964 Presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater), the true conservative path lies elsewhere. “Utilities are working off of a business plan that’s 100 years old,” he said in an interview, “kind of like the typewriter and the bookstore.” On the website for his campaign, Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed, Mr. Goldwater, a former congressman, says, “Republicans want the freedom to make the best choice.”

dontread

He says conservatives are the original environmentalists, especially in the West. “They came out here and fell in love with the land,” he said, and added that his father used to tell him, “There’s more decency in one pine tree than you’ll find in most people.”

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