Homer-Dixon cites new research by leading Arctic climate scientist James Overland of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Overland found that last winter heat released in the fall from the Arctic’s large expanse of open water helped create bulges of high-pressure air over the Arctic that destabilized the polar vortex. The jet streams broke into disconnected segments, many travelling north to south pulling bitterly cold air into North America, Europe and eastern China.
This change in wind directions is called the Warm ArcticCold Continents climate pattern, says Overland. The jet-stream breakdown last winter was the most extreme in 145 years of records. He said loss of sea ice is certainly not the whole story behind cold mid-latitude winters, but a constant push in that direction.
Whether the same thing is happening this winter is not yet known, but Homer-Dixon reports the jet stream maps for the northern hemisphere in late November show nothing resembling a typical polar vortex. “Instead, the jet streams were broken into discontinuous bits, pieces, loops and circles, with many north-to-south flows over North America and Eurasia.”
Perhaps this kind of strangeness is why once scientist calls climate change “global weirdness” rather than global warming.
According to James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), global temperature is rising as fast during the past decade as in the prior two decades, despite year-to-year fluctuations associated with the El Niño-La Niña cycle of tropical ocean temperature.
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