No, I’m not talking about the big rock concert coming in May to Wisconsin, this is something that we all see and feel as we walk out the door in the morning. The record setting cold that has gripped the eastern half of the country since around Christmas has caused the usual ‘hur, hur, where’s you’re global warming now, huh?’ posts on social media like Twitter, including from the Twit-In Chief.
I could go on all day about the difference between weather and climate but sites like RealClimate do a fine job of explaining that but what I want to talk about is how climate change is making cold snaps like this sink even further south and stay longer. Simultaneously warm air from the temperate zone can infiltrate the arctic causing things like rain in Greenland and melting permafrost in Alaska.
One consequence of climate change that is not in doubt is that the arctic is warming over 3 times faster than regions closer to the equator. As this difference becomes less the polar jet stream becomes weaker and allows the arctic air to invade. There are rivers of air in the atmosphere called jet streams that carry weather systems around the planet in a fairly regular linear pattern that keeps them within a certain band of latitude. Recent research from Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers has predicted that these polar invasions will become even more frequent as the world warms.
We had a similar pattern in 2009, I remember one day in January then where the temp in New Orleans was the same as Fairbanks, Alaska. Chaos is the rule of the day in weather now, and with more heat comes more chaos. I have been studying this for over 25 years and observing it even longer, the predictions made by Dr. James Hansen before Congress in 1988 are coming to pass. Things are moving faster now with bigger disasters becoming more and more common. Also remember that these long lasting bends in the jet stream work the other way as well and we are going to see long lasting heatwaves in summer like Europe in 2017.