Climate change may be affecting the jet stream

by |March 7, 2012

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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[…] 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 […]

James Harding
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James Harding

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… Read more »

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[…] The Earth Institute Colombia Univ. blog […]

global warming fearful
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global warming fearful

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.

Susan Hayes
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Susan Hayes

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.

Mohunch
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Mohunch

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

andy
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andy

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

jane
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jane

@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.

David ruckledge
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David ruckledge

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

Meg
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Meg

@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?

Gary Rose
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Gary Rose

No ,! Climate change is the prduct, not the cause . Look at the change in the earths magnetic poles from where true noth is now ,and where older maps shows it to have been . The changes creat a different paradigm, for the sake of simplicity , we will call WOBLE . This rotational deviation , due to simple varifyable facts , creats this remarkably predictable and easly plotted effect on the jet strem . Not rocket science ! Not climate change .

Gary Rose
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Gary Rose

Our atmosphete contains .04 % Co2 , just barely enough to maintain existing plant life . Ask yourself this simple question. Did you know that simple fact ?