Review: Arctic Temperature Amplification Influence on Polar Vortex Causing Severe Winter Weather

Review: Arctic Temperature Amplification Influence on Polar Vortex Causing Severe Winter Weather // Feb 18, 2021

In my last few videos I discussed the brutal cold snap that has extended downward in the USA, as far south as the Mexican border and the Gulf of Mexico. It temporarily wiped out about 1/3 of the Texas power grid, plunging 4.5 million Texas households into extended cold and darkness. If you assume that each household has an average of 3 people, that’s 13.5 million people. As bad as it was, it came very close to knocking out the entire state power grid.

In this video I get into the scientific details on how abrupt climate system change has warmed the Arctic much faster than the lower latitudes (Arctic Amplification) and this in turn is leading to frequent disruptions of the polar vortex. I discuss a review paper that examines the various process that lead to observations of slowing and wavier (more meridional) Jet Streams, which are in turn leading to more likely Sudden Stratospheric Warming which then fractures (splits) the polar vortex causing cold Arctic air to spill far southward in North America and in Eurasia.

  • Essentially, the Arctic is warming like crazy on its own.
  • This warming near the surface and near the troposphere-stratosphere border region of the Jet Streams is rising even higher into the stratosphere fracturing the stratospheric polar vortex.
  • Consequently, the cold Arctic air spills southward.
  • Of course, when you think about it, massive amounts of cold air moving from the Arctic to the deep southern latitudes is simply another manifestation of a greatly warming Arctic, since the cold air lost there in the far North is replaced by warmer air moving into the far north.

Of course, most people have not cared in the least that the Arctic is warming like crazy. However, they do care, even in Texas, when the Arctic breaks and the cold Arctic air spills into their cities and takes out their power grid.

I can guarantee you that people will care, when the broken Arctic disrupts the global air circulation and ocean circulation patterns enough to take out much of the global food supply in the near future, as we plunge towards a total loss of summer Arctic sea ice BOE (Blue Ocean Event).

Ref: ‘Divergent consensuses on Arctic amplification influence on midlatitude severe winter weather‘, December 2019. Nature Climate Change 10(6):1-10 [1]

The Arctic has warmed more than twice as fast as the global average since the late twentieth century, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification (AA). Recently, there have been considerable advances in understanding the physical contributions to AA, and progress has been made in understanding the mechanisms that link it to midlatitude weather variability. Observational studies overwhelmingly support that AA is contributing to winter continental cooling.

‘Although some model experiments support the observational evidence, most modelling results show little connection between AA and severe midlatitude weather or suggest the export of excess heating from the Arctic to lower latitudes. Divergent conclusions between model and observational studies, and even intramodel studies, continue to obfuscate a clear understanding of how AA is influencing midlatitude weather. Amplified warming in the Arctic has been linked to weather variability in the midlatitudes. This Review considers the evidence from both observations and modelling studies on this link for increasing severe winter weather, including cold temperatures and heavy snowfalls‘.
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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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