Tag Archives: Extreme Weather

Everything You Wanted To Know About The ‘Polar Vortex’

A person struggles to cross a street in blowing and falling snow Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, in St. Louis.
A person struggles to cross a street in blowing and falling snow Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, in St. Louis.
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JEFF ROBERSON

If you were curious about the term “Polar Vortex” (which actually sounds like a term used in the”climate change”  movie “The Day After Tomorrow“), this article may be helpful…

Think Progress

Indeed, recent temperatures across the U.S. have been Mars-like. Forecasts in the midwest call for temperatures to drop to 32 below zero in Fargo, N.D.; minus 21 in Madison, Wis.; and 15 below zero in Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Chicago. Wind chills have been predicted to fall to negative 60 degrees — a dangerous cold that could break decades-old recordsOn Sunday night, a reporter for The Weather Channel stood in a Minnesota snowstorm, talking about local efforts to move homeless children into heated shelters. “How cold is it supposed to get?” the anchor, back in the studio, asked. The reporter replied: “Colder than Mars.”

All of which begs the question — if climate change is real, then how did it get so cold?

The question is based on common misconceptions of how cold weather moves across the planet, said Greg Laden, a bioanthroplogist who writes for National Geographic’s Scienceblog. According to Laden, the recent record-cold temperatures indicate to many that the Arctic’s cold air is expanding, engulfing other countries. If true, this would be a perfect argument for a “global cooling” theory. The Arctic’s coldness is growing. Laden asks, “How can such a thing happen with global warming?”

The answer, he writes, is that the Arctic air that usually sits on top of our planet is “taking an excursion” south for a couple of days, leaving the North Pole “relatively warm” and our temperate region not-so-temperate. “Go Home Arctic, You’re Drunk,” he titled the explanation.

“The Polar Vortex, a huge system of moving swirling air that normally contains the polar cold air, has shifted so it is not sitting right on the pole as it usually does,” Laden writes. “We are not seeing an expansion of cold, an ice age, or an anti-global warming phenomenon. We are seeing the usual cold polar air taking an excursion. So, this cold weather we are having does not disprove global warming.”

In fact, some scientists have theorized that the influx of extreme cold is actually fueled by effects of climate change. Jennifer Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Science, told ClimateProgress on Monday that it’s not the Arctic who is drunk. It’s the jet stream.

The "drunk" jet stream on Jan. 6, 2014.The “drunk” jet stream on Jan. 6, 2014.

“The drunk part is that the jet stream is in this wavy pattern, like a drunk walking along,” Francis, who primarily studies Arctic links to global weather patterns, said. “In other places, you could see the tropics are drunk.”

Arctic warming, she said, is causing less drastic changes in temperatures between northern and southern climates, leading to weakened west-to-east winds, and ultimately, a wavier jet stream. The stream’s recent “waviness” has been taking coldness down to the temperate United States and leaving Alaska and the Arctic relatively warm, Francis said. The same thing has been happening in other countries as well. Winter storms have been pounding the U.K., she noted, while Scandinavia is having a very warm winter.

“This kind of pattern is going to be more likely, and has been more likely,” she said. “Extremes on both ends are a symptom. Wild, unusual temperatures of both sides, both warmer and colder.”

Francis’ research, however, is still disputed. Dr. Kevin E. Trenberth, a distinguished senior climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told ClimateProgress on Monday that he was skeptical of Francis’ assessment.

“Jennifer’s work shows a correlation, but correlation is not causation,” he cautioned. “In fact it is much more likely to work the other way around.”

Instead of Francis’ theory that a warm Arctic moves the jet stream, Trenberth said it could be that the jet stream moves, leading to a warmer Arctic. And Francis’ theory could work if the Arctic was, in fact, particularly warm and iceless — at the moment, in winter, the Arctic is cooler and icier.

“I am not saying there is no [climate change] influence, but in midwinter, the energy in these big storms is huge and the climate change influence is impossible to find statistically,” he said. “So we have to fall back on understanding the processes and mechanisms.”

Still, Trenberth — based in Boulder, CO., — just had 11 inches of snow on Saturday, which he said is the third largest ever for the month. Normally the area gets only light, fluffy snow. But, he said temperatures on Friday were 62 degrees, making for extra moisture and heat, “probably” contributing to the extra snow. The incident mimics what Trenberth’s research has shown — that increased moisture and heat from climate change has an effect on weather events.

“The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question,” he has written. “All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.”

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Filed under Climate Change

96 Percent Of Network Nightly News’ Coverage Of Extreme Weather Doesn’t Mention Climate Change

My guess is that the corporate heads of those networks don’t want climate change mentioned because most of them probably feel it’s against their political ideology.  Of course there is also a “bottom line” factor as well. The networks’ biggest advertisers seem to be  energy related companies…

Think Progress

2013 was a big year for climate. Global carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere hit 400 parts per million for the first time in recorded history; global sea levels hit a record high; oil spills, coal mine landslides, and gas explosions beset the world.

But arguably the most visible and persistent climate event was the increase in ferocity of our weather. 2013 was marked by extremes in temperature and precipitation, conditions that fueled deadly wildfiresflooding, and storm surges.

Despite those facts, America’s major television news stations mostly failed to mention climate change when reporting on events like deadly flooding in Colorado, the string of major wildfires across the American West, and bouts of unseasonable temperatures across the country.

Those are the findings of a new survey released by Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), a progressive media criticism group. The results were achieved through analysis of extreme weather news reports with more than 200 words from CBS Evening News, ABC World News and NBC Nightly News for the first nine months of 2013. Extreme weather event reports analyzed included news about hurricanes, drought, wildfires, floods and heat waves.

“Our study demonstrates that when weather is the news, the climate is seldom mentioned,” the organization wrote on its website. “It’s almost as if the climate and the weather were happening on two different planets.”

NewsWeather

CREDIT: FAIR.ORG

Out of this year’s 450 segments about extreme weather, just 16 of those reports mentioned climate change, according to the survey. “In other words, 96 percent of extreme weather stories never discussed the human impact on the climate,” FAIR said.

Breaking it down by network, CBS Evening News was the worst culprit of ignoring climate when talking about weather. According to FAIR’s survey, only two out of 114 reports about extreme weather mentioned the terms “greenhouse gases,” “climate change” or “global warming.” One of those segments was about flooding in North Dakota, wherein the only mention came from the mayor of Fargo, who commented: “Is it climate change? I really don’t know.”

On ABC World News, just eight out of its 200 extreme weather segments — approximately four percent — attributed weather outcomes to climate factors. NBC Nightly News mentioned climate change six times in 136 reports on extreme weather.

“It’s unrealistic to expect that TV newscasts would find a way to mention climate change or a warming planet in every significant story about extreme weather,” the organization wrote. “But you’re unlikely to ever bring up global warming if you don’t think that it’s real.”

While the scientific community is still studying certain aspects of the link between climate change and extreme weather, many connections are clear. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report did not establish whether there was a pattern suggesting an increased frequency of hurricanes and tornadoes due to global warming. But the connection between climate change and the severity of droughts, floods, wildfires and heavy rainfall is obvious. The relatively conservative IPCC warns of increased heat, drought, deluges, and sea-level rise — all the direct result of man-made global warming.

And, as Climate Progress’ own Joe Romm has pointed out, it is all but certain that warming-driven sea level rise makes storm surges more destructive, and that increased water vapor in the atmosphere from increased sea surface temperatures leads to five to ten percent more rainfall and increases the risk of flooding.

As for Hurricane Sandy, there’s little doubt that global warming worsened its impact. In particular, a September study by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers found “climate-change related increases in sea level have nearly doubled today’s annual probability of a Sandy-level flood recurrence as compared to 1950.”

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Filed under Climate Change Denial

Southern Storm Emergency Declarations: Flights Canceled, Roads Icy

Huffington Post

A blast of winter weather rolled across the South on Sunday, coating bridges and roads with snow, sleet and freezing rain and causing thousands of flight cancelations.

The governors of Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and Tennesseee declared emergencies for their states. By late Sunday, snow and ice had covered the ground in Atlanta and Birmingham, Ala., with 2 to 3 inches reported west and northwest of Atlanta.

“We don’t have weather events like this,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in an on-air interview with CNN. “I think the amount of snow we’re getting is probably a 10-year event for the city of Atlanta.”

Georgia was expecting up to 6 inches of snow in the northern mountains from the powerful storm that also dumped snow and ice in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas. Forecasters said the front could also bring sleet and freezing rain lasting into Tuesday in Georgia.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said workers had readied snow and salt trucks to help clear icy roads, and he asked all residents to stay home Sunday night and Monday unless it is imperative that they have to travel.   More…

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Filed under U.S. Politics

Metrodome Roof Collapses Under 17 Inches of Snow [VIDEO]

Huffington Post

The inflatable roof of the Minnesota Vikings’ stadium collapsed Sunday and roads were closed throughout the upper Midwest as a storm that dumped nearly 2 feet of snow in some areas crawled across the region.

A blizzard warning was in effect for parts of eastern Iowa, southeastern Wisconsin, northwestern Illinois, and northern Michigan, according to the National Weather Service. Surrounding areas including Chicago were under winter storm warnings.

The Metrodome’s Teflon roof collapsed after Minneapolis got more than 17 inches of snow. No injuries were reported. The snowfall that ended Saturday night was one of the five biggest in Twin Cities history, National Weather Service meteorologist James McQuirter said. Some surrounding communities got more than 21 inches of snow, he said.

Fox News has dramatic video from inside the Metrodome of the roof collapsing.

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Filed under Ferocious Weather