Climate change causes weather to be stuck in place exacerbating extremes- new evidence

One of the most troubling ideas about climate change just found new evidence in its favor

  • Changing planet-scale air patters like the jet stream causes weather to become more stuck in place
  • Droughts, heat waves, rainfall and more may persist longer

by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Mar 27, 2017

Ever since 2012, scientists have been debating a complex and frankly explosive idea about how a warming planet will alter our weather — one that, if it’s correct, would have profound implications across the Northern Hemisphere and especially in its middle latitudes, where hundreds of millions of people live.

The idea is that climate change doesn’t merely increase the overall likelihood of heat waves, say, or the volume of rainfall — it also changes the flow of weather itself. By altering massive planet-scale air patterns like the jet stream (pictured below), which flows in waves from west to east in the Northern Hemisphere, a warming planet causes our weather to become more stuck in place. This means that a given weather pattern, whatever it may be, may persist for longer, thus driving extreme droughts, heat waves, downpours and more.

Jet Stream Visualization NASA

Visualization of a very wavy Northern Hemisphere jet stream. (NASA)

This basic idea has sparked half a decade of criticism and debate, and at the cutting edge of research, scientists continue to grapple with it. And now, a new study once again reinforces one of its core aspects.

Publishing in Nature Scientific Reports, Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University and a group of colleagues at research institutes in the United States, Germany and the Netherlands find that at least in the spring and summer, the large scale flow of the atmosphere is indeed changing in such a way as to cause weather to get stuck more often

Michael E. Mann et al Influence of Anthropogenic Climate Change on Planetary Wave Resonance and Extreme Weather Events Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 45242 (2017) doi:10.1038/srep45242