A Winding Jetstream Brings Weather Chaos Around the Globe

June 22, 2019

Working on a new jet stream explainer that I hope will be ready soon. Have chatted with Mike Mann, Jennifer Francis, and others.


Michael Mann in Scientific American:

During the extreme events I noted, the jet stream acted strangely. The bends went exceptionally far north and south, and they stalled—they did not progress eastward. The larger these bends, the more punishing the weather gets near the northern peak and southern trough. And when they stall—as they did over the U.S. in the summer of 2018—those regions can receive heavy rain day after day or get baked by the sun day after day. Record floods, droughts, heat waves and wild fires occur.

My collaborators and I have recently shown that these highly curved, stalled wave patterns have become more common because of global warming, boosting extreme weather. But we predict that the rising severity may level off for the next several decades. That may sound strangely “good”—the bad spells will continue, but at least they will not get worse. We also predict that the extreme events will start becoming much more severe, beginning around 2050 or so—particularly in summer. Threats to people’s health and safety will increase, storm damage will get more extensive and crops needed to feed a rising population will be ruined.

How do we know? Wave mathematics and quantum mechan- ics tell us. Yes—the mathematics that characterize the behavior of electrons at the smallest scale help us describe the behavior of our atmosphere at global scales. They indicate that the rise in dangerous weather, the coming plateau and the subsequent surge are driven by a curious trade-off between greenhouse gas concentrations from fossil-fuel burning and sulfur pollution from industrial smokestacks. And that trade-o raises the question of whether cutting emissions will prevent the jet stream from wreaking havoc.

5 Responses to “A Winding Jetstream Brings Weather Chaos Around the Globe”

  1. grindupbaker Says:

    The aerosols effect in damping the obvious effect of the “Arctic amplification” sounds interesting and I’ll have to keep en eye out for details to ponder, if not too complicated. The basic effect is far simpler and more obvious. There’s 7-9x as much solar radiation available over the Arctic Ocean in mid-late June than there is in mid-late September and a higher fraction will be absorbed in mid-late June because the Zenith angle is lower, so the increase in summer and autumn air current change will be exponential rather than just linear as the open Arctic Ocean water fraction increases back through August, then through July. With the lower latitudes presently sending an humongous 20 (mid-late June) to 190 (mid-late September) w/m**2 to the Arctic region it seems inevitable to me that the air current must decrease exponentially over the coming decades until it’s all over and there’s never any summer sea ice on the Arctic Ocean. So, it’ll be fascinating when some WG1 climate scientist eventually gives a high-quality talk explaining how atmospheric aerosols will be creating a plateau in its increasing effect on the northern polar jet stream.

  2. indy222 Says:

    Less ice in the AO also means more evaporation from the open ocean and perhaps more clouds, also this can be caused by a weakening of the basic Polar Cell mechanics of falling air (that’s what makes the desert regions) being driven by cold at the north pole, lessens. So I don’t think the simple description above is quite that dramatic.

  3. rabiddoomsayer Says:

    Jennifer Francis’s theories are now well and truly mainstream. More than a few doubters 7 years ago.

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