Diary of the Future

February 22nd, 2014

February 22, 2014: Climate disruption is becoming increasingly evident in our times. As we begin to thaw out from what has been a surprisingly cold and snowy winter, it seems almost comical to have to ask whether this is somehow connected with global warming. It is. The southward migration of the polar vortex, which we’ve all started hearing about, is partly caused by an upwelling of warm air in the Arctic, causing the center of the vortex to rise and the edges to spill outward. This doesn’t mean that global warming causes it, but only that it likely exacerbates it, continuing a changing pattern of weather events that taken together are what we mean by “climate change.”

nasa-polarvortex-drop.jpg.CROP.original-original http://www.jonathancloud.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/nasa-polarvortex-drop.jpg.CROP_.original-original-300x300.jpg 300w http://www.jonathancloud.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/nasa-polarvortex-drop.jpg.CROP_.original-original.jpg 354w" sizes="(max-width: 150px) 100vw 150px" /> NASA Goddard Space Flight Center[/caption] Of course this is not the first 'Arctic winter' to be experienced in the U.S., though it dropped record amounts of snow and broke all of the low temperature records set since the National Weather Service started keeping them in the 1870s. And the disturbance may well be linked to climate change. According to Phil Plait writing in Slate (Feb 2014): "warming water in the Arctic leads to ice loss which leads to more warm water. Some climate scientists think this may be disrupting the air flow in the polar vortex, which in turn leads to the meanders in the jet stream. This idea is pretty new and not yet verified. But the irony is clear: If these scientists turn out to be right, not only does the cold weather not disprove global warming, it may actually be caused by it."

Wikipedia, as always, brings us plenty of footnoted references:

Beginning on January 2, the breakdown of the polar vortex and subsequent southward movement of tropospheric Arctic air was caused by sudden stratospheric warming(SSW),[12] a phenomenon discovered in 1952. NASA states, “A major midwinter SSW event occurs when polar stratospheric temperatures increase by at least 25 K in one week, and the zonal-mean zonal wind at or near 10 hPa (at about 30 km altitude) reverses direction and becomes easterly north of 60° N.”[13]

In short, we are now living in the age of climate change in a way we haven’t really started thinking about yet: exactly how are we going to adapt to it?

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