More on unusual warmth
As you may be able to tell by now, I’m very interested in weather and climate change and somewhat alarmed by this winter’s warmth. (take a look at the 5 day for new york:
In a post over on Wunder Blog, Dr. Jeff Master’s went into further detail on just how unusual this widespread winter warmth and lack of snow really is. Look at the departure from normal snow depths at this time of year:
You’ll see that places like Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that normally are buried under 2 feet of snow this time of year, have barely seen an inch. Despite all the news coverage about blizzards in Colorado, this past December really was exceptionally warm, with temps running on average of 5-20 degrees above normal. But warm winters happen, and although they have been happening a lot more recently, this winter seems different.
The earth has a way of balancing things out, so as it is exceptionally warm in one place like it has been here, it usually is exceptionally cool in another place (like Europe or Russia).
This winter, however, has been incredibly warm across the Northern Hemisphere (although the summer in the Southern Hemisphere has been below normal). From Dr. Masters:
A persistent kink in the jet stream pattern typically sets up in these
cases, pumping cold air from the pole down to one region, and warm
subtropical air northwards into an adjacent region. However, that is
not the case this year. Land areas in huge areas of the Northern
Hemisphere, including most of Asia (Figure 4), have temperatures well
above normal. This is something I’ve never seen before–there’s almost
no cold Arctic air to be found.
Why is this scary, and potentially dangerous to have such warm winters?
The Arctic Ice Cap has shrunk by about 20% since 1979, and at the end of November this year, the amount of sea ice in the Arctic was about 2 million square kilometers less than had even been seen in any previous November. December has also seen the lowest sea ice coverage for any December on record. All this exposed water provides a huge source of heat and moisture in
the Arctic that retards the formation of the usual cold air masses over the adjacent regions of Canada and Siberia… the record low sea ice in the Arctic is probably a significant contributor to this winter’s record warmth.
He ends with:
I expect that the unnaturally warm winters we’ve experienced the past two years in the U.S. will become the norm ten years from now–and may already be the new norm.
I know I’ve been posting a lot about the excessive warmth we’ve seen this winter, but I can’t really believe it. I’ve only been a “weather geek,” for about 15 years but I do know for sure that there certainly has been nothing like this since I’ve been alive, and most likely since anyone reading this has been alive. It seems to me that climate change is not going to be something that happens gradually over hundreds of years, but more likely something that happens very quickly in a rapid chain reaction. The melting of the Artic ice caps is happening and will (as mentioned above) prevent normal cooling in winters, which will melt more ice caps more quickly, which will mean warmer winters, which will melt more ice caps even more quickly…etc. It appears to be happening.
I guess the obvious question I need to ask myself is, what can I do personally to make a difference?