Extreme Weather Increasing Due to Stalled Atmospheric Waves

April 16, 2016

Explainer from Potsdam University in Germany, on research connecting atmospheric circulation and extreme weather events.

Below, Jeff Masters and Jennifer Francis discuss the same topic.



15 Responses to “Extreme Weather Increasing Due to Stalled Atmospheric Waves”

  1. pendantry Says:

    Thank you for these. Very informative.

  2. ubrew12 Says:

    The response of the jet stream to the reduced temperature gradient N-S, due to loss of Arctic sea ice, reminds me of the way a river, flowing in a straight line when the elevation gradient is high, slows and meanders, and is easily blocked, when the elevation gradient is low near the ocean.

    • I was thinking about this too. Suppose Dr. Francis and her colleagues spent a while with some fluvial geomorphologists, who are geologists that specialize in the interaction of flowing water and land. Are river meanders and atmospheric meanders mathematically identical, or similar enough that both groups of scientists would learn something? Is there a modeled flow pattern of meanders that could realistically apply to either a river or the jet stream? River meanders and jet stream meanders both move downstream, slower or faster as needed, but is it for exactly the same reason?

      • dumboldguy Says:

        An interesting idea, but I don’t think it would lead to any great new understandings on either side. River meanders and atmospheric meanders both result from underlying laws of physics, but they are not mathematically identical or even all that similar.

        What happens with rivers is a linear mass flow of water under the influence of gravity, which erodes solid material from the banks and transports it downstream. It’s localized and, influenced by the local topography, and doesn’t really “move” the way Rossby waves do.

        The meanders in the atmosphere/jet stream are caused mainly by the Coriolus Effect and temperature differences, they DO move, and there is no real wearing away of the “banks” on either side, which are just more air, albeit at different temps and densities. The air movement is part of a heat transfer mechanism, while the river meanders are part of a material movement mechanism.

        Apples and oranges, really. And river meanders don’t move downstream the way Rossby waves do—they grow sideways. Check out this quick lesson and compare it to the Rossby wave clip.

  3. Lionel Smith Says:

    And that behaviour of a river when its outflow level is raised is going to be consequential as sea levels rise. Rivers will want to change course with flooding, unexpected by some, being the result.

  4. Gingerbaker Says:

    It’s bloody cold here in Vermont. Winter has not really ended and it should have a few weeks ago. And yet there will be a time in the not too distant future, when millions of people will be envious of all this cool air. Because this cool air is mostly due to the existence of polar ice.

  5. dumboldguy Says:

    Two excellent video clips. The first one explaining Rossby waves is particularly good—-it’s a somewhat difficult topic for those without much science background. The animated cartoons brought a wide smile to my face.

    It will be interesting to see what the expected record high global temps and extreme melting of the Arctic sea ice in 2016 will bring to the equation.

    And we’re having weather weirdness and temperature swings here in Northern VA also. The trees and shrubs are breaking winter dormancy in strange ways—-some are nearly fully leafed out and others have not even started (unless a whole bunch died over the winter and are never going to leaf out again).

  6. Tom Bates Says:

    The headline is a lie. The actual study makes the claim that extreme weather results from a stall in the normal air flow concentrating the weather on a spot instead of spreading it out over a larger area. The actual extreme weather per the insurance industry report for last year was six years of below average claims.

    • redskylite Says:

      What planet do you live on, please attach links to substantiate your claim. 1-6 year’s weather does not define climate anyway, that is generally measured in terms of 3 decades. Everything I read points to increasing costs, there are a number of good sources on extreme weather costs in human lives and dollars, from official U.N organisations and by International Insurance. So please include your link, else we will assume that your rude retort is a lie.

      “Insurance industry aims to reduce huge losses from climate change extremes
      Insurers count mounting costs of climate change and lobby to reduce the damage”

      By Susan Noakes, CBC News Posted: Nov 20, 2015 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Nov 20, 2015 5:39 AM ET

      “The insurance industry has been hit by mounting claims from extreme weather, and for years now it has pointed out that the real costs associated with climate change are already with us.”


    • redskylite Says:

      UNISDFR Prevention web is a good source for extreme weather events info ..

      looking at the graph 1980 – 2014 from Munich RE definite observable upwards trend between start (1980) and end (2014) in number of events and insurance losses. .


    • redskylite Says:

      Lots of good data on this site . . including climatology disasters


  7. redskylite Says:

    Excellent article from Eric Holthaus in Climate Central/Ensia on improved data to measure extreme events . . .

    “a new rainfall data set is aiming to change all that.

    The data set, called CHIRPS (short for “Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation With Station data”) blends data from weather stations and weather satellites with extraordinary accuracy, providing a detailed record of global rainfall stretching back more than 30 years. By making it possible to compare current rainfall patterns with historical averages at the neighborhood scale for virtually the entire world, CHIRPS provides an early warning system for drought, making it possible for development agencies, insurance companies and others to more effectively activate adaptive strategies such as food aid and insurance.”


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