Mother Jones: Polar vortex on “drunken” excursion from Arctic home, such unorderly conduct thanks in part to overall warming of the Arctic according to research of Dr. Jennifer Francis. [Fact Checking]

January 7, 2014 9:33 pm6 comments

POSTED FOR COMMENTARY BY THE CCNF SCIENTIST COMMUNITY:

GoHomeArctic,YoureDrunk

Viral image created by Gred Laden/ECMWF

 1. From “Everything You Wanted To Know About The ‘Polar Vortex’,” by Emily Atkin, Jan. 6, 2014, ThinkProgress.org (original quote below from “Go home, Arctic, You’re Drunk,” by Greg Laden, Jan. 5, 2014, ScienceBlogs.com):

“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,” Greg 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.”

2.  “Why the Arctic Is Drunk Right Now” by Chris Mooney, Jan. 6, 2014, MotherJones.com:

When it comes to the reason why the United States is currently experiencing life-threatening cold—with temperatures in the negative-20s in the Upper Midwest, and wind chills much lower than that—that’s actually not so far from the truth. “It’s basically the jet stream on a drunken path going around the Northern Hemisphere,” explains Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis. In other words, we’re experiencing record-breaking cold temperatures because a wavy and elongated jet stream has allowed frigid Arctic air to travel much farther south than usual.

And according to Francis’ research—which has drawn increasing attention in the past few years—we’re seeing more of just this kind of jet stream behavior, thanks, at least in part, to the rapid warming of the Arctic.

 

 

Tags:

THE FORUM'S COMMENT THREAD

  • The excursion of the polar vortex is far from unprecedented. The only unprecedented thing about this event is that the public has now heard the words “polar vortex”. Dr. Francis’s work is still controversial within the scientific community and should be regarded as a hypothesis at this point.

  • It is now unusual to have an outbreak of cold like this that was routine in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Controversial is not the right word, maybe not well sub-stantiated for, Francis and Vavrus (2012) have evidence to back up this hypothesis, however, the evidence is not of sufficient temporal duration to be robust.

  • Here’s what I consider to be a good summary of the issue from Nature magazine: http://www.nature.com/news/us-cold-snap-fuels-climate-debate-1.14485 . It came out January 8. They use the term “hotly contested” rather than “controversial”; either one works for me.

  • P.S. to Mauri – If you were attending or listening in on the National Academy of Sciences workshop on Arctic amplification this past fall, I think you’d agree with “hotly contested” too.

  • Yes, I would agree with hotly contested, which means the evidence is not conclusive yet one way or the other. The hotly contested also generally means that considerable effort will be focused on the issue, and clarity will emerge. This clarity will not emerge overnight or even be resolved this year. It is likely going to be a more nuanced answer, with jet stream changes induced by the Arctic amplification being important in certain circumstances and seasons, but not always.

  • An accpeted article from Geophysical Research Letters, Barnes et al (2014) takes a detailed an comprehensive look at trends in northern hemisphere blocking. The key sentence to me is, “The key result of Fig. 2a,b is that no general increase in blocking over the Northern Hemisphere is observed, and the sectors, seasons and indices with robust trends vary depending on the years analyzed.” This is rather robust result. However, this paper does focusses on the number of blocks and frequency of blocks, not necessarily the potential enhancement of specific blocks.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

PUBLIC COMMENT THREAD

  • http://atmo.tamu.edu/profile/JNielsen-Gammon John Nielsen-Gammon

    The excursion of the polar vortex is far from unprecedented. The only unprecedented thing about this event is that the public has now heard the words “polar vortex”. Dr. Francis’s work is still controversial within the scientific community and should be regarded as a hypothesis at this point.

  • http://glacierchange.wordpress.com/ Mauri Pelto

    It is now unusual to have an outbreak of cold like this that was routine in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Controversial is not the right word, maybe not well sub-stantiated for, Francis and Vavrus (2012) have evidence to back up this hypothesis, however, the evidence is not of sufficient temporal duration to be robust.

  • http://atmo.tamu.edu/profile/JNielsen-Gammon John Nielsen-Gammon

    Here’s what I consider to be a good summary of the issue from Nature magazine: http://www.nature.com/news/us-cold-snap-fuels-climate-debate-1.14485 . It came out January 8. They use the term “hotly contested” rather than “controversial”; either one works for me.

  • http://atmo.tamu.edu/profile/JNielsen-Gammon John Nielsen-Gammon

    P.S. to Mauri – If you were attending or listening in on the National Academy of Sciences workshop on Arctic amplification this past fall, I think you’d agree with “hotly contested” too.

  • http://glacierchange.wordpress.com/ Mauri Pelto

    Yes, I would agree with hotly contested, which means the evidence is not conclusive yet one way or the other. The hotly contested also generally means that considerable effort will be focused on the issue, and clarity will emerge. This clarity will not emerge overnight or even be resolved this year. It is likely going to be a more nuanced answer, with jet stream changes induced by the Arctic amplification being important in certain circumstances and seasons, but not always.

  • http://glacierchange.wordpress.com/ Mauri Pelto

    An accpeted article from Geophysical Research Letters, Barnes et al (2014) takes a detailed an comprehensive look at trends in northern hemisphere blocking. The key sentence to me is, “The key result of Fig. 2a,b is that no general increase in blocking over the Northern Hemisphere is observed, and the sectors, seasons and indices with robust trends vary depending on the years analyzed.” This is rather robust result. However, this paper does focusses on the number of blocks and frequency of blocks, not necessarily the potential enhancement of specific blocks.