Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Weakened 'polar vortex' blamed for N. American chill

From Phys.org courtesy of a facebook friend:

The bitter chill gripping North America is a result of Arctic air that has spilled southwards, and global warming may be a cause, an expert said on Monday.

Arctic air is normally penned in at the roof of the world by a powerful circular wind called the polar vortex, said Dim Coumou, a senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) near Berlin.

When the vortex weakens, the air starts heading southwards, bringing exceptional snow and chill to middle latitudes.

The weather shift is also helped by changes in a high altitude wind called the jet stream.


What drives the polar vortex is the difference in temperature between the Arctic and mid latitudes, said Coumou.

Once sharp, this differential has blurred in recent years as the Arctic—where temperatures are rising at about twice the global average—warms up, he said.

"We've seen this type of cold spell more often lately in recent winters, in Europe but also in the US," Coumou said in a phone interview.

More here.

It's been holding steady here in Metairie at 28 degrees for the last few hours.  Weather.com tells me it's going to bottom out at around 22 degrees somewhere around six in the morning.  Needless to say, it's damned cold, a whole helluva lot colder than it usually is in these parts, even in the dead of winter as it is now.  Another article I looked at said this is the coldest it's been in the US in twenty years.  So, while such a cold snap is definitely within the scope of normal temperatures over the course of several decades, it appears that climatologists are blaming this blue Norther on global warming.

If you are in any way inclined to be confused by, or even dismissive of, the notion that extremely cold weather can be the result of our planet getting hotter, click through and read the article.  It's a pretty simple explanation, really: more heat makes the weather do things we almost never see, and this includes temporary, geography-specific drops in temperature, which makes sense given that the atmosphere isn't much more than a bunch of big huge chemical reactions.  

So global warming, climate change, whatever you want to call it, is no longer, and hasn't been for several years, something that will happen in the future.  It's happening right now.  And it's just going to get worse.  And it's our fault.  Well, okay, it's really capitalism's fault, but we, average ordinary people, participate, whether we want to do so or not.  But you get my drift.  Super storms, a rise in the number cat five hurricanes, catastrophic heat waves, gigantic cold waves, all this stuff is evidence of severe disruption of normal weather patterns catalyzed by the continual increase in average global temperatures.

And it's all just going to get worse.  Capitalists, who are the most short-sighted class in the history of humanity, will do nothing, nothing at all, which might sacrifice quarterly earnings.  And they've duped some thirty percent of the population into laughing about how cold weather disproves global warming.  This was going to be hard to fix from the get-go, given how the entire economy is based on greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels.  But the obstinacy of the so-called "one percent," coupled with the knee-jerk denial of any and all science contradicting cherished conservative beliefs, makes it virtually impossible.

We're totally screwed.  And I'm afraid it's too late.