Climate change may be affecting the jet stream

by | 3.7.2012 at 2:36pm | 10 Comments
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If you have ever looked at a weather map, you’ve a seen picture of the jet stream, that wavy west to east line linking areas experiencing relatively similar weather. In the three dimensional world, jet streams are high altitude westerly winds that occur along the boundaries between air masses of different temperatures. They are driven by the temperature gradient; in the winter, when the gradient is steepest, jet streams are strongest.

A new study provides evidence that climate change may be affecting the northern hemisphere jet stream. As a result of climate change, Arctic autumn temperatures have warmed by as much as 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees F), reducing the temperature gradient between the Arctic and temperate latitudes. In response the jet stream appears to be moving northward and its wind speed slowing. In turn, this may be slowing the westward progression of waves in the jet stream, which cause weather variation along their westward path as they fluctuate north and south.

The slowing of the jet stream, therefore, could cause weather patterns to remain in place for longer, resulting in prolonged heat waves or cold snaps.

There is something intuitive about this, I think. I’ve recently had a couple of conversations about what the unnervingly consistent and mild winter we are experiencing in the northeastern US-and indeed across the country- means for the coming summer. This study indicates that the jet stream is increasingly likely to stay where it is. If so, we really could be in for a hot one.

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10 Responses to “Climate change may be affecting the jet stream”

  1. [...] position of these jets varies regularly with the seasons, and with El Nino events (and there is evidence that it is shifting now due to climate change). But they also develop kinks and wiggles, often [...]

  2. James Harding says:

    When I took Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois over 30 years ago, I had a professor who informed us that as the temperature of the earth warms, the temperature of the jet stream will get warmer and as a result get slower. Also, the use of the word “stream” is very appropriate because as anyone who lives by a stream or river will tell you, as the flow slows, the stream will want to meander or wander. Therefore, as the jet stream warms and slows, expect is to “meander” which will have the result of bringing colder air farther south and warmer air farther north than traditional patterns. Sound familiar? Again… THIS WAS OVER 30 YEARS AGO. So how long or how much information does the human species need to overcome denial?

  3. global warming fearful says:

    Here’s an interesting addition: I’ve recently learned that earthquake activity, specifically movement of tectonic plates around the globe has been shown to have a relationship to man made changes to our climate – i.e. global warming. This according to scientific research conducted over 18 months ago is some scary stuff given the far ranging implications suggested by that research. Yikes.

  4. Susan Hayes says:

    The melting of the polar icecaps and the breaking off of huge icebergs into the North Atlantic has introduced very cold fresh water into the warm, salty water of the jet stream as it flows across the upper Atlantic and near Western Ireland.
    This disrupts and changes the flow of the jet stream and will cause changes in the weather, some scientists believe.

  5. Mohunch says:

    @Susan Hayes: The jet stream contains warm salty water?

  6. andy says:

    UK easterly winds for over a month,and now going to continue into APRIL

    Anglesey off northwales is in the gulf stream and the sea temp is as cold as anywhere else when usally the weather and sea temp is on average 10deg warmer than else where ? now only 4deg higher

  7. jane says:

    @mohunch, I think you know she meant the gulf stream. Salility is being diluted but not by much if i read it right. Things are speeding up though and speed begets more until well you know or you will.

  8. David ruckledge says:

    Could it be possible for northern and southern jet streams to merge and what effect would it have on our planet

  9. Meg says:

    @global warming fearful: From what I have read, I believe that earthquakes can cause an earth axis shift, which could speed up/slow down the surface winds, which causes changes to the position of the jet streams. I cannot believe that man causes earthquakes. They come from deep within the earth. However, there are so many variables that appear to affect the earth’s climate it would take a team of scientists years to sort out all the data available and put the blame on … who or what?

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