Climate Change Making Storms More Intense, Changing Jet Stream

How climate change is making storms more intense

‘Massive flooding in Windsor last year was a sign of climate change — but the science behind these ever-intensifying storms is more complex than it seems’ …

The Ontario Educational Communications Authority (TVO) profiled Paul, further down page, here:

The Changing jet stream

Cyclonic storms are moved by air currents called jet streams. The currents in Ontario are created when cold air from the north collides with warm air from the south.

“The jet stream or winds in the mid-levels of the atmosphere help guide low pressure systems as they move across North America,” says Geoff Coulson, an Environment Canada climatologist. “Every once in a while the winds in the mid-level of atmosphere will slacken off and will be in an area where there isn’t much push. This low-pressure system basically sat in that area to the south of Windsor and kept pumping moisture.”

Both poles are heating up faster than the equator is, and that’s contorting the jet stream, lowering its speed and increasing its waviness — it typically travels east-west, but waviness makes it travel north-south sometimes.

The Arctic is warming faster, Beckwith explains, because as the sea ice melts, it exposes more ocean. Since the ocean is darker than ice, it absorbs more heat — which causes more ice to melt, which exposes still more dark surfaces. Similarly, less snow cover on land exposes more dark ground.

There are more and more examples occurring all around the world of these torrential rain events where a region or a city will get four to five months of rainfall and they get it in a night or they get it in a couple days,” Beckwith says. “And that leads to flooding because the infrastructure just can’t handle it.”

The changing jet streams have influenced not just storms but other catastrophic weather events too, Beckwith says. The European heat wave of 2003, the 2010 Russian drought, and the recent California drought were all caused by jet-stream oddities.

Beckwith says storms like that in Windsor are going to keep happening as the temperature difference between the poles and the equator continues to shrink. “We’re heading rapidly to an arctic with less sea ice and much less snow cover,” he explains. “The extreme weather events that we’re seeing will get much worse.”’
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And Paul’s third recent video, in series: Abrupt Climate Changes in Global Atmospheric Circulation // Published on Apr 13, 2017

How is ABRUPT CLIMATE CHANGE presently shifting our global atmospheric circulation patterns? We know jet streams are slower & wavier, greatly increasing the frequency, severity & duration of extreme weather events (flooding, droughts, with intensified risk to global food supply).

Will the present 3-cell behaviour (Hadley, Ferrel, Polar) mutate to a 2-cell or 1-cell pattern? Will there even be a jet stream?


About paulbeckwith

Well known climate science educator; Part-time Geography professor (climatology, oceanography, environmental issues), University of Ottawa. Physicist. Engineer. Master's Degree in Science in Laser Optics, Bachelors of Engineering, in Engineering Physics. Won Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario gold medal. Also interested in investment and start-ups in climate solutions, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Avid chess player, and likes restoring old homes. Married with children.
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