Teaching Moment: Hammering Home to the Climate/Jetstream Connection

January 29, 2019

Associated Press:

TRUMP: “In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming (sic)? Please come back fast, we need you!”

THE FACTS: While the Midwest is in the grip of a chill that’s likely to set records, Earth is still considerably warmer than it was 30 years ago and especially 100 years ago.

The lower 48 states make up only 1.6 percent of the globe and five western states are warmer than normal. The Earth as a whole — and it is global warming, not U.S. warming — on Tuesday is 0.54 degrees (0.3 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1979 to 2000 average and 1.6 degrees warmer than it was on average about 100 years ago, according to data from the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer and NASA.

“This is simply an extreme weather event and not representative of global scale temperature trends,” said Northern Illinois University climate scientist Victor Gensini, who is in the midst of some of the worst subfreezing cold. “The exact opposite is happening in Australia right now.”

Australia is broiling with triple-digit heat that is setting records opposite the Midwest. Adelaide last week was 115.9 degrees (46.6 Celsius), setting the record for the highest temperature ever set by a major Australian city.

Trump is cherry picking cold weather to ignore the larger picture of a warming planet, said John Cook, a professor of climate change communications at George Mason University.

“This myth is like arguing that nighttime proves the sun doesn’t exist,” Cook said.

Washington Post:

In Wisconsin, the governor has declared a state of emergency, and many school districts called off classes ahead of a bone-chilling week of weather. The looming deep freeze led to federal court closures in Chicago and shut down the Lincoln Park Zoo — though polar bears will still be allowed outside. Flights were grounded. Amtrak canceled trains running in parts of the Midwest. Utility companies scrambled 24-hour response teams, because as one executive told The Post, “In these kinds of events, people just cannot be out of power.”

As millions of people across the nation braced for a possibly life-threatening cold snap, President Trump late Monday used the opportunity to mock the idea that climate change is actually happening, while misspelling the word “warming.”

“In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder,” Trump tweeted. “People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming? Please come back fast, we need you!”

“Even in a warming climate, you still expect to get extreme and sometimes record lows occurring — they’ll just be occurring less frequently,” said Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University, noting that recent years have brought many more record highs than record lows.

“As far as the president’s remark, I’m not sure exactly what to make of it,” he said. “But I think in this case Trump’s signaling to his base that he doesn’t take climate change seriously.”

Indeed, in this particular case, counterintuitive as it may sound, some scientists say the so-called “polar vortex” descending over the Midwest and Great Lakes Region is the kind of event we should expect more of as the Arctic gets severely disrupted by climate change.

Granted, that’s far from an established point of view. Other researchers continue to demur about a winter weather event that could be historic in the cold it brings to some regions.

“I think this a really interesting, open question that is very much on the cutting edge of climate science,” said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University.

For nearly a decade, there have been scientific contentions that the rapid melting of the Arctic, which is happening much faster than the warming of more temperate latitudes, is interfering with weather, especially in winter.

These contentions have drawn a lot of attention. The Obama administration, for instance, put out a 2-minute video explaining the 2014 polar vortex, taking pains to say that frigid weather doesn’t mean the Earth’s atmosphere isn’t warming. “If you’ve been hearing that extreme cold spells like the one we’re having in the United States now disprove global warming, don’t believe it,” John Holdren, Obama’s top science adviser, said at the time. “The fact is that no single weather episode can either prove or disprove global climate change.”




6 Responses to “Teaching Moment: Hammering Home to the Climate/Jetstream Connection”

  1. Dave Jewett Says:

    To think, this kind of cold in North America used to the norm; a bitter cold for months on end during the winter. Now an event like this is a kind of novelty, and when it happens for a week or so everyone freaks out.

  2. Sir Charles Says:

    Give this Tramp a snowball that he can lick it up.

    He doesn’t believe in climate change, but in Ireland he got planning permission for building sea walls to protect his golf course from rising sea levels.

    => Trump Resort in Ireland Gets Approval for Sea Walls

    Give this Tramp a good kick.

  3. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    Who cares if the temperature rises one or two degrees, it’s not much right? Well wrong. The average temp is up 24/365, and the cumulative effect is huge. Then there are extreme weather events and the extensive damage they cause, from this resident of Adelaide. The adjoining state had it’s hottest day ever a few years ago.
    Wild fires burnt 1.1 million acres, basically in an afternoon and evening and killed 173 people. A heatwave in Europe killed 30,000+ people and on it goes. These events are killers, catastrophic, getting worse and MUCH more frequent. Shall attempt to attach a graphic of extreme Oz weather events for the last century. Shades of the hockey stick, or a dirty great sledge hammer. Shows extreme events with decade separation to more annually and worse. They cannot be dismissed.

  4. redskylite Says:

    As some scientists warn that the incidence of anomalous winter extreme cold is likely to increase due to the invasion of warm air into the Arctic and split/displaced vortex, BBC via the National Weather Service (NWS) describe the incident is “‘once-in-a-generation” – we will see.

    US to shiver in ‘once-in-a-generation’ polar vortex

    John Gagan, a National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist, said: “The intensity of this cold air, I would say, is once in a generation.”

    The NWS is warning that frostbite is possible within just 10 minutes of being outside in such extreme temperatures.


    Science Says: Get Used to Polar Vortex Outbreaks

    Get used to it. The polar vortex has been wandering more often in recent years.

    It all started with misplaced Moroccan heat. Last month, the normally super chilly air temperatures 20 miles above the North Pole rapidly rose by about 125 degrees (70 degrees Celsius), thanks to air flowing in from the south. It’s called “sudden stratospheric warming.”

    That warmth split the polar vortex, leaving the pieces to wander, said Judah Cohen, a winter storm expert for Atmospheric Environmental Research, a commercial firm outside Boston.

    “Where the polar vortex goes, so goes the cold air,” Cohen said.


  5. neilrieck Says:

    As I write this from Waterloo Ontario Canada (43°28′N 80°31′W) the temperature outside is -22 C with an expected high of -18 C. Meanwhile the current temperature in Anchorage Alaska (61°13′N 149°54′W) is +1 C with an expected high of +2 C. The reason why I mention this is this: for the last decade, the winter temperature of Anchorage was almost always higher than Waterloo. Why? The jet stream was a vertical line near Anchorage, which then became a horizontal sign wave over the lower 48 states. Technically speaking, Anchorage was always below the jet stream while Waterloo was always above. These wild changes to the northern jet stream have been attributed to artic melting.

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