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Thank you as usual, Neven!

I'd say that "something of a cracking event" is turning a bit more robust... Rather lot of open water appearing off the north slope possibly?

I'm not going to try to capture today's image specifically, but here is the link:


Shared Humanity

Temperature has not budged for 5 hours (9 AM to 2 PM) in Chicago....-14F with a wind chill of -45F.

Shared Humanity

That cracking looks a whole lot like last year.


Hi all,

The Graun has a live blog:


...whence this good tabloid-style report from Eric Holthaus...


"Polar vortex" is the internet's favourite suggested name for the next big rock band:


...whence this sublink to the events of 1985 was news to me...


I was going to repeat a link I already gave to Tenney's link to Jennifer Francis's work, but to avoid me crossing the picket line, you'll all have to find it for yourselves, here...


Crozet Dutchie

Polar Vortex misplacement, This time without a SSW? http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/01/05/1267317/-Polar-Vortex-Jet-Streams-Stratospheric-Warming-events-Rossby-Waves-and-Arctic-Blasts

Chris Reynolds

Bloody Hell Neven!

What a coincidence, I've just posted my first blog post of the year: The Atmosphere Goes Bonkers.

I think that both the UK storms and now the US cold outbreak are due to the polar vortex.


Here in Winnipeg, it got down to -38 C yesterday, which is cold. But I am not sure I buy the relation to sea ice. Currently, Arctic Sea Ice is not much below normal, and last summer was one of the highest levels in a few years, so why the record breaking weather now? Shouldn't the effect of sea ice melting be more pronounced in the late summer/fall when the anomalies are greatest?


I have been watching this develop with keen interest, and I think I begin to see a pattern. See what you all think.

Firstly, the folks at the Univ. of Washington have some amazing weather products.

One in particular seems to be especially good at identifying the jet streams AND predicting its behavior over the next week.

I see several consistent patterns that seem to be developing as the northern hemisphere temperature differential driving force falls.

1) The jet streams stabilize over the asian continent (old pattern)
2) A large body of added oceanic warmth has developed and persisted off of the west coast of the U.S. centered about 135 degrees longitude. This is creating a blocking pattern in the atmosphere.
3) The jets encounter this block and are forced to go mostly north, but sometimes south of the block. In years gone by, this lead to deluge rains in Los Angeles.
4) This diversion then creates an oscillation that ripples across North America and Europe driving the deep oscillations and intrusions of arctic air down over the continent, and very warm air up into Alaska.
5) This is then causing the polar and main jets to merge for much of the journey around the pole.
6) This also leads to new circulations over Canada, Greenland and Europe driving more heat northward and more cold southward in cycles.
7) This also stabilizes the frequency plot of undulations in the jet.
8) There appears to be a similar though weaker blocking pattern developing over the mid north - to north Atlantic.
9) This is driving lots of cold and rain into England and lots of heat into Scandinavia.
10) Finally over central Europe, the continental land mass and southern mountains stabilize the flows again to return back to the Pacific with intense cold over eastern Siberia.
11) There also appears to be another ripple that pulls warmth northward over the Bering straits.
12) This also seems to be driving all sorts of weather changes across the continental U.S. and Europe.

Am I seeing things? Or is this a real and developing pattern?

Is the oceanic warmth in the northeastern Pacific also then the reason for the many wild changes we have seen in the ocean ecosystems there? E.g. the huge sardine explosion and mammals and birds in California waters, coupled with the starfish die off from Oregon north into Canadian waters.



Another interesting tidbit.

I have watched the El Nino/La Nina cycle for almost 20 years now. In the last 15 years something odd has happened quite often.

El Nino shows up as warm oceans off the South American coast that then moves in Kelvin waves Westward across the pacific until it crashes into Asia. As this relatively hot band develops, two cold bands develop with it at the tropics.

La Nina does the opposite. Cold spreads across the equator, and warmth spreads in a band at the tropics.

In the last 15 years, often the northern band has failed to respond. Rather than being cold with El Nino and warm with La Nina, it has been warm with both.

This has to be connected to the northern hemisphere heating and the polar melt in some way.

The traditional indices don't capture this, as they monitor the equator only.


Firstly, the folks at the Univ. of Washington have some amazing weather products. http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/loops/

One in particular seems to be especially good at identifying the jet streams AND predicting its behavior over the next week.

Wow! Thanks a lot for this, Sam! Now where do I fit this in on the ASIG...

2) A large body of added oceanic warmth has developed and persisted off of the west coast of the U.S. centered about 135 degrees longitude. This is creating a blocking pattern in the atmosphere.

I've been noticing this patch of red on the ASIG's SST maps as well lately:


Hi Neven,

IIRC, that red spot has been there a long time.

Sam - that's really interesting.

Climate Progress's coverage has Ken Trenberth disagreeing with Jennifer Francis...


Chris Alemany

Sam and all:
The link provided by Sam to the UWash imagery has expired.

If you are looking for the current link, go here:

And scroll down to where you see "North Pole View" and immediately under that section is the "250mb wind/height" product that shows the jetstream so nicely.

R. Gates

Great post Neven. This polar vortex strangeness is quite interesting, and I tend to side with Dr. Francis on the elongation of the Rossby wave activity, but the connection to SSW events and the Brewer-Dobson circulation seems to be totally missed by many experts. Climate models have long forecast an enhancement to the Brewer-Dobson circulation, and part of this enhancement would be a relationship to more SSW events as more energy is moving high in the stratosphere and even the mesopshere. These waves break on the troposphere and cause the warming "bubbles" that move toward the poles. While we've not had a major SSW event yet from the current squeezing and elongation of the Arctic vortex, we have had this cold pulse squeezed out of the Arctic by a warm pulse pushing it from mesospheric and stratospheric levels. Anyone can readily watch this pulse move up at 10 hPa over the past few days: (watch over Asia beginning about Dec. 25-26, as the warm pulse grows rapidly and moves toward the north)


As I pointed out in my SSW post last year, as this wave begins to push down over the pole and squeeze and disrupt the polar vortex, simultaneously at the equator, the air is rising and cooling, and this represents a 9000km teleconneted event that is both a massive amount of energy, and confirms global climate models predictions of an enhancement to the Brewer-Dobson Circulation as GH gases increase.


The PIOMAS graph has been updated to include December.



If only...



HI Neven , that warm North Pacific spot has been around for a long time , scroll check on my blog : http://eh2r.blogspot.ca/ the october 6 article entitled "Clouds major play......"

The term "Polar Vortex" is misplaced. A Polar Vortex is near the Poles. What has transpired was created in the Sub-Arctic and was moved by a series of Vortex zones I call Cold Temperature North Poles. The one over Hudson Bay moved over South Central Quebec, it was a cold zone with a counterclockwise flow at its perimeter, the one in Quebec help created the jet to bend towards Minnesota , moving and creating the current CTNP once over Illinois, the CTNP over Illinois helped shape the Jet so Montreal was well above +6 C, and should introduce not so cold subarctic weather from the West leading up to +2 C temperature in Chicago come Friday.

In brief the Jet stream is a major player, but what shapes it even a bigger and more important, surely Ireland and UK will feel a respite from this cold air spinning in North America.

Susan Anderson

Meteorologist Brad Panovich spotted the Sudden Stratospheric Warming Event some days ago:

I picked it up on January 1. He's been following up on it: weather broadcaster as noted:




Jai Mitchell

The north pacific high SST anomaly is a function of the blocking high. This is the event that has caused unusually warm (and dry) winters here in California so far this year.

It seems clear that very dry air coming off of china is feeding into the blocking pattern. you can see it clearly here:

I believe that one or a combination of the following is responsible for the significant shift in weather patterns between 2012 to 2013:

1. China's air pollution
2. China's cloud seeding to reduce local smog
3. A covert government global dimming project in the tropics designed to reduce the expansion of the Hadley Cell into the U.S. Midwest as was experienced in March 2012.

Most significantly, if a global dimming project was put into place at the beginning of 2013, the primary satellite that would have been able to detect such a project mysteriously failed in December of 2012.


Raymond Duray

Oh, oh!

Neven, time to man up, put up the barricades, man the defenses!

Competition is coming to the Arctic Sea Ice Blog!*#!

U-Wash. Future of Ice Program: http://tinyurl.com/k3hax8q

[Aside: Well, at least they think ice has a future. That's encouraging. :) ]


Clearly global circulation patterns are wildly different than normal. Neven, thanks for publishing on this topic and to the others who have provided copious links.

I came across this article also from Fairfax Climate Watch about the changes in the westerlies that helped me understand some of the changes taking place:


Also, there is a weather blog from Cliff Mass of UW which is mostly about the US Pacific Northwest weather. This is also an excellent blog and may be of interest to a few readers:


Jai Mitchell


Arctic sea ice and atmospheric circulation under the GeoMIP G1 scenario

We analyze simulated sea ice changes in eight different earth system models that have conducted experiment G1 of the Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project (GeoMIP). The simulated response of balancing abrupt quadrupling of CO2 (abrupt4xCO2) with reduced shortwave radiation successfully moderates annually averaged Arctic temperature rise to about 1 °C, with modest changes in seasonal sea ice cycle compared with the pre-industrial control simulations (piControl).

Jai Mitchell

The PDF of the paper referenced above:


note the first image on figure 6.

The 500mb pressure maps for the Geoengineering model show a high pressure anomaly for the December-January-February in the north pacific.

Jai Mitchell

last post on this paper:

quote from the paper

The negative PNA-like pattern in
G1-piControl is associated with a westward shift of the jet stream toward East Asia, blocking activity over the high latitudes of the North Pacific Ocean, and a strong split-flow configuration over the central North Pacific Ocean. Figure 7 displays these features with a decreased jet speed over central, west Pacific region (with across-model differences, SI Fig. 7), and the 200hPa geopotential height map also shows a “blocking” high pressure over the northern North Pacific under G1.


PIOMAS update:
2013-12-31 15.225

I have updated my graphics at ArctischePinguin for the latest data.

Monthly DataMonthly data
Daily AnomaliesDaily Anomalies
Daily data Daily data
Daily data with a "prediction" based on exponential trend Daily data with a

the connection to SSW events and the Brewer-Dobson circulation seems to be totally missed by many experts.

Meteorologist Brad Panovich spotted the Sudden Stratospheric Warming Event some days ago:

R. Gates, Susan Anderson, I wanted to mention SSWs as well, but didn't know enough in relation to this event to do it. Now that I do, I will write an update later today.

Competition is coming to the Arctic Sea Ice Blog!*#!

I welcome all competition. The more, the better. :-)

The PIOMAS graph has been updated to include December.

Thanks, D_C_S!


The Guardian's latest liveblog:


...has a link to the latest from Andrew Freedman...


The Alaskan "heatwave" which seems vaguely associated with this phenomenon, shows up in the ice charts for Bering and the Sea of Okotsch




The Guardian has another liveblog...


...whence a link to the latest from Andrew Freedman...


The Alaskan/Pacific "heatwave" is showing up in the regional ice areas graphs for Bering and Okotsch Seas...



And, as reported on the forum, IJIS/JAXA is now showing the lowest ever ice extent for this particular date.


12,545,921 km2 (January 5, 2014) Lowest ever for the date.

121,344 km2 below 2000s average, and 284,821 km2 below the same date in 2012, the year of the record-setting melt-out.

(But don't worry; I'm sure the "recovery" will start any day now. "



Bering and Okotsch ice is highly volatile, and while certainly affected by current conditions, doesn't strike me as definitive. The open water north of Alaska and fracturing strike me as more significant. While any one local state on its own is indistinguishable from natural variation, the *assemblage* *is*:

- Low ice coverage in the Okotsch and Bering
- Increased Fram export
- Fracturing and open water in the Beaufort
- Continued winter export of ice through Nares strait
- Persistent open water and heat around Svalbard
- Mostly ice-free Barents Sea
- Unusually high snow coverage on the ice
- persistent high temperature anomalies across the region
- generally low resistance to wind and mobility in the pack at large.

That's quite a list and I haven't even tried hard.


Snow coverage is quite below average in much of Europe and the western US. This set-up is similar to 2007 and 2012 when snow was also below-average in Europe. NOAA's model ensemble at CFS also implies a much warmer-than-average late winter/early spring for Europe, which I guess could hasten whatever snow is present in Scandinavia and western Russia. Too early to say where 2014 maximum will sit, but it's already looking like a low-ball, and the lack of snow is not a good omen for protection of ice this summer. We shall see, being that it is only January.


For my last comment, I meant to say "hasten the melt of whatever snow is present..." mid-paragraph. My fault.


More winter weather weirdness: near hurricane strength blizzard in Iqualuit. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/iqaluit-blizzard-brings-winds-up-to-135-km-h-1.2486725


I have updated the blog post with a mention of SSWs and some other views on this jet stream stuff. Boy, there's a lot of disparate info out there. I wonder what it'll all boil down to in a couple of years.


Looks as though SSW may be "closing", as middle/upper stratosphere anomalies begin to shrink. This is probably not going to be as big as 2013's SSW.


Jai Mitchell try doing a little research before posting conspiracy theories. I live in China and no one is going to be doing any significant cloud seeding, there are no clouds at this time of year to seed. this is the dry season and has been for two months. the local government has a truck fleet that spends 12 hours a day 7 days a week watering the public road side trees and plants. When it last rained it rained continuously for 48 hours and that was a whole months rain. the average in this part of China during November/December is 2in per month. I never dreamed that I would be praying for rain but I am, the pollution sucks and it is far worse in the north. there is talk of cloud seeding in 2 years time but is is just talk.


Sounds like the Iqaluit storm is pretty spectacular:

From http://robsobsblog.blogspot.ca/ "That Iqaluit storm is one of the most intense storms I've ever seen in my 30 years following meteorology. To give you an idea how intense this storm is.. a meteorological "bomb" is defined as a storm which exhibits explosive deepening at the rate of 24 mb within 24 hours. The pressure at Iqaluit has dropped 36 mb within the past 12 hours.. so it's intensifying at 3 times the rate of a bomb. I've never seen a storm do that to that degree. Absolutely jaw dropping stuff. I suspect this may be the worst storm on record for Iqaluit with lots of damage."

John Christensen

Agree with Ecojosh, the storm is very impressive on the DMI arctic weather page as well:


And on Wunderground:


Where does a strong winter storm go from there?


"Where does a strong winter storm go from there?"

Unusually Westward, in a battle with fortress winter, given respite to Ireland and UK winds and warming up the entire North, and eventually South.


Oh, man, that's a blowtorch of comparatively warm, moist air being played straight onto the eastern CAA.

I have been nosing around through old posts for images from the last fracturing event in the Beaufort. This year's seems to be starting out as severe, and six weeks earlier. Increased circulation won't help.

Any one know where archived Canadian weather service satellite images live?


thank you A4R... This is the Beaufort last year, February 8th


And now:


A series of strong storms in the westerlies off the coast of North America have undercut the high pressure along the coast with heavy warm rains on the way with snow levels mostly above 1800 meters elevation. These storms appear to be staying north of a strong lobe of this high pressure over California. The high pressure is forecast to reform next week so this rain probably won't last too long.

Hubert Bułgajewski

I wrote on the blog home NSIDC report. Waiting for data PIOMAS.

Greetings to all

Rob Dekker

We are all well aware of Jennifer Francis' work, and specifically the paper Francis and Vavrus 2012 "Evidence linking Arctic amplification with extreme weather in mid-latitudes".

But at least I was not aware that there is actually a paper that challenges her findings, until I noticed this Cliff Mass blog :

The paper in question is Barnes 2013, by Prof. Elizabeth Barnes, Colorado State University (isn't that Trenberth's uni ?)

Here is the pdf :

Any way, I read the paper, and it is well written, clearly explained, thorough, it's results makes a lot of sense, and it does put some (significant?) constraints on Dr. Francis claims.

Dr. Francis actually did put a comment in Cliff's blog on the Barnes paper.

I also put in a comment, where I describe my opinion of the differences and common findings of both papers, and mention Neven's blog to Dr.Francis, as one site where we would love to have a longer discussion about blocking patterns, Rossby waves, and extreme weather events.

I hope that comments gets through Cliff's moderation today, but if not, I'll post it in full tomorrow.


Hi Rob,

I briefly mentioned Barnes 2013 on the ASIF and Jim Hunt referred me to this Dosbat post, with a much fuller discussion of FV12 versus Barnes13...


Sorry all, for double posting the same thing twice further upthread. Typepad tricked me.

Some amusing satire out of America here, if anybody's interested...


John Christensen

With reference to the main image at the top of this entry showing part of the polar vortex breaking off and moving down on the North American side, I was just scanning views on Wunderground and noticed that the cold on the Siberian side is quite impressive right now as well with -55 - -60C in central Siberia:


Amazing with this kind of cold on both sides, while we still have a high centered over the AO:



Hi John,

Your post prompted me to check on this...


Which on New Year's Eve was deformed so that it looked a bit like a love heart. I'd prefer not to say what I think it looks like now. I think it "should" look like a tight circle, which corrals the polar vortex, but I really don't know.

I would not be prepared to bet against the blue "eye" in the middle splitting in two in the near future, which AFAIK, would be very odd.

Charles Longway

Idunno, I have been following this deformed system for over a week, but at the 10hPa level. My take is that the cyclonic stretched portion over the pole is being reinforced by anti-cyclonic systems over the North Pacific and North Atlantic. Perhaps ocean energy venting from lower latitude is the driving force. No idea if this is common or not.

Colorado Bob

Scientists to examine Pacific's 'global chimney'.

Even though few people live in the western tropical Pacific Ocean, these remote waters affect billions of people by shaping climate and air chemistry worldwide. Next week, leading scientists will head to the region to better understand its influence on the atmosphere—including how that may change in coming decades if storms over the Pacific become more powerful with rising global temperatures.

With the warmest ocean waters on Earth, the western tropical Pacific fuels a sort of chimney whose output has global reach. The region feeds heat and moisture into huge clusters of thunderstorms that loft gases and particles into the stratosphere, where they spread out over the entire planet and influence the climate.


Rob Dekker

Thanks, idunno, for your reference to Chris Reynold's post on the discussion of the Francis versus Barnes papers.

Chris' post is high quality (as usual) and I especially found Chris' graph of the increase in blocking patterns over time very interesting :

I took the liberty of using this graph in a second post on Cliff Mass' blog, who responded rather dismissive to my first comment, which was what I intended to be a applause of the constructive scientific debate on in the two papers on the issue of Arctic amplification in relation to extreme weather events.

Since Cliff Mass did not even respond to Dr. Francis comment, and dismisses mine with the remark "You could not have read these papers very carefully", I'm not so sure if Cliff Mass is interested in engaging in any scientific debate.

Colorado Bob

Not a Historic Cold Wave
As notable as this week's cold wave was--bringing the coldest air seen since 1996 or 1994 over much of the nation--the event failed to set any monthly or all-time record low minimum temperature records at airports and cooperative observing stations monitored by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. As wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt summed it up for me, "The only significant thing about the cold wave is how long it has been since a cold wave of this force has hit for some portions of the country--18 years, to be specific. Prior to 1996, cold waves of this intensity occurred pretty much every 5-10 years. In the 19th century, they occurred every year or two (since 1835). Something that, unlike the cold wave, is a truly unprecedented is the dry spell in California and Oregon, which is causing unprecedented winter wildfires in Northern California." Part of the reason that this week's cold wave did not set any all-time or monthly cold records is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so in a warming climate. As Andrew Freedman of Climate Central wrote in a blog post yesterday, "While the cold temperatures have been unusual and even deadly, climate data shows that intense cold such as this event is now occurring far less frequently in the continental U.S. than it used to. This is largely related to winter warming trends due to man-made global warming and natural climate variability." For example, in Detroit during the 1970s, there were an average of 7.9 nights with temperatures below zero. But this decade, that number has been closer to two nights.



Seems the US White House is getting in on explaining how the cold wave relates to climate change/warming:



Rob Dekker, thanks,

I didn't see that blocking frequence graph yet and plan to give it some more attention. The info in the posts on the seasonal aspects of wave-pattern behaviour may help me in the interpretation of the 10-day pattern changes I'm after. Until now I focused on the geographical spread.
On your blog-attempts; I guess the position of Prof. Mass, on a scale of reticence, could be referred to as 'very cautious', of Dr. Francis maybe 'alert' and Dr. Hansen 'alarmed'. I find Mass' response to your post a bit 'high-handed'. On Realclimate you can read his response to Hansens' work on the PNAS/Perception of CC-paper 2012. That response expresses the same caution in Mass' approach. And his willingness to compare apples to pears. IMO not very helpful when decisive action on GHG-reduction is badly needed.

Jai Mitchell

1. The Barnes paper has a selection bias in the latitude of the wind analysis that pushes it farther north than the Jet Stream track. (Francis' comment on Mass' blog)

2. The Barnes paper incorrectly asserts that an increasing trend in blocking patterns does not exist. (Observation of blocking frequency graph provided by Dr. Anthony Lupo of U.Miss)

3. Dr. Lupo is a global warming denier who contributed to the fossil-fuel industry sponsored Heartland Institute hack job of the IPCC report.

•Lupo, A.R. (Contributing Author Ch 6 only), 2009:
Heartland Institute, 2009: Climate Change Reconsidered: The Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), edited by Craig Idso, Ph.D., and S. Fred Singer, Ph.D. (released 2 June 2009)- 2%.

he also states his position as a "skeptic" in a response to a paper in the Journal of Missouri Medicine.


4. The graphic of the Lupo information appears to miss the significant increase of blocking patterns observed in the north pacific (-150W). I would be suspicious of potential selection bias within that data itself.


The distinct warm pool in the North Pacific is very curious and is almost certainly related to the highly persistent geopotential height ridging (i.e. the "Ridiculously Resilient Ridge") that is ongoing in and east of the same region. It's not entirely clear whether this is a case of the ocean forcing the atmosphere or the other way around, but it's most likely a self-reinforcing process either way and now that the warm pool exists it is likely contributing to the incredible persistence of the ridge.

California has really been suffering as a result of this pattern--there have been no major storms whatsoever over the past 13 months and what little rain has fallen has mostly been associated with colder systems taking an unusual track from the north or even northeast. 2013 was the driest year in California in at least 119 year and probably a lot longer than that, since some places exceeded their previous driest year on record by ~50%. I've been following this on Weather West (http://www.weatherwest.com), though I suppose it might be time for a new post now that we're in the new year and this pattern is still in place...


Rob Dekker, I am not sure why Cliff Mass was so dismissive about your comment as I have not read either paper myself and have relied on analysis by others to help understand them. I have read Cliff Mass for a considerable length of time(years) and found his blog to be informative and quite accurate which is why I provided the link to that blog in my post above on January 7 in the first place. Hopefully his dismissive comment won't deter you or others away from his blog.


Rob Dekker

Thanks VaughA.
I guess he does not like me for pointing out common ground between the Francis and Barnes papers. That's OK.

But I think I understand why he is venting a polarized view on this issue.

Observational studies of trends on blocking events and jet stream are hard, and to find correlation of these with another effect (such as Arctic amplification) are harder yet, and then we didn't even talk about causation.

Scientifically speaking we just starting with exploration of the data. After all, it's been only 15 years of so that sea ice cover started to reduce in very substantial fractions.

Thus, it is not surprising that there are many serious climate scientists (Trenberth for one) who dismiss the link between Arctic sea ice loss and extreme climate events at this point, for lack of evidence, although they keep their mind open.

But looking at Cliff's post, and the comments he gives (even disrespectfully disregarding Dr.Francis response on his own blog), it seems that Cliff has made up his mind on the issue, and is taking a very hard stand on one side.

For a scientist, it's disappointing in my view.

But since Dr. Francis' work has been highly publicized in public media, while the evidence for here theory is still rather thin and a bit fragile (just getting out of the noise) and has been pushed back again by papers like Dr.Barnes' results, it is also not entirely unexpected that he is a bit angry.

In the process, I learned something about Cliff Mass, and the entire debate about the link (or lack thereof) between global warming and extreme weather events.

Rob Dekker

Weather_West, thanks for bringing up the interesting "Ridiculously Resilient Ridge" (love the name!).

This blocking high has been sitting there for almost a year now, caused the worst drought year in California's recorded history, and it shows no sign of relief.

The SINGLE storm this raining season we had here in Northern California was a one-hour long tropical downpour (incidentally coinciding exactly with a soccer match of the U10 team I'm coaching) back in October.

This is getting indeed quite "ridiculous".

I did a bit of research, and found that interestingly enough there appears to be a "Ridiculously Resilient Trough" in the Antarctic about the same meridian, which is possibly causing extended sea ice cover around Antarctica) that's been there for almost two years now.

I'll see if I can dig up a global picture of that (NCEP/NCAR).

Shared Humanity

I have another theory about these very tortured jet streams that are bringing extreme weather to the mid latitudes.

First a caveat, while there are lot of amateur scientists on this site, I am not one of them. I am, in fact, a rank amateur.

I wonder if we are missing or, perhaps underestimating, the critical role that the Northern Hemisphere topography plays in a warming world. This topography, prior to warming already influenced climate across the planet. Thus we had specific climate features prior to the rapid ramp up of atmospheric CO2 and surface temperatures, both on land and sea. Examples of these weather features would be tornado alley in North America, the generally warmer (moister?) climate that Europe experiences despite its high latitudes, tropical storm patterns in the Pacific and Atlantic and the temperate rain forest of the northwest coast of North America which exists on the windward side of the Rockies. I am not a climatologist and I am sure they could mention hundreds more of these climate features in the Northern Hemisphere. Our current understanding forms the foundation of all of our climate models.

Some of the major topographical features that influence this climate would be the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the location of large land masses, all of the major mountain ranges and, of course, the polar region itself. These topographical features having always influenced the climate patterns that humanity experienced in a stable CO2 world.

Now, everything is changing. Surface temperatures are rising across the planet, resulting in temperature anomalies. The temperature changes are not uniform but they do have patterns that are manifesting themselves across the planet. What isn't changing is the Northern Hemisphere topography. Could these changes we are seeing be a result of this fixed topography enforcing or coercing a new climate pattern across the planet, actually influencing the jet stream?

Here is where the rank amateur comes in. I have lived in Chicago my entire life and have been an avid gardener for 40 years. I have seen dramatic shifts in the weather that has affected my planting and success with growing food but there has been a seasonal pattern (even a sort of stability) to these shifts. We are experiencing warmer winters, cooler and wetter springs, generally cooler but much drier summers and gorgeous falls that extend into early winter. I have lost entire crops of tomatoes because of ridiculously wet springs and very dry summers. I have had squash yields that have been enormous, with a growing season that extends into November. Unfortunately, these are just personal observations. I have no temperature and precipitation data to support these observations.

There are other, relatively consistent, patterns I seem to see emerging but this is simply from reading a great deal about weather across the Northern Hemisphere. The east coast of the U.S. is seeing more precipitation in the winter. Tornado alley seems to be shifting both in timing and location, the British Isles are being deluged with moisture.

My biggest fear about a warming world is this. Yes this warming world is causing weather extremes but the sticky weather we are seeing has a sticky feature to it that is a result of our fixed topography. This topography will interact with the rising surface temperatures causing a new climate regime to emerge with new patterns of highs and lows, jet stream behavior, precipitation patterns etc.

Could we possibly encounter dreadful examples of regional winners and losers across the planet and could we be closer to this reality than we realize? Is the 10 years of below average precipitation in the American Southwest be, in fact, a new climate regime emerging in this region of the world? What might the near term impact be on the agriculture and the tens of millions of people in this region as they literally run out of water? And how will Great Britain cope with persistent seasonal precipitation that threatens to wash them into the seas?

Shared Humanity

How did I arrive at this theory? I often play mind games with every problem or question I encounter. The game is to set odd "what ifs" to test the theory. With regards to the influence of topography on jets stream behavior and climate, it goes like this.


Does the fixed, variable Northern Hemisphere topography have a critical influence on the pattern of jet streams and climate?

What if:

What if the Northern Hemisphere had a topography that was absolutely uniform? If the hemisphere consisted of an absolutely smooth crust covered by a sea of uniform depth, what would climate look like on such a world? How would the oceans and atmosphere behave in such a world? Would this climate, the behavior of the jet stream and oceans, exhibit a stability that parallels the topographic stability?

Shared Humanity

It would seem to me, if the answer to the above "what if" is yes, then it is also true that the fixed topography of the Northern Hemisphere is, in fact, the single biggest contributor to climate, the jet stream patterns and weather that we all have come to expect.

The key to understanding our warming world would be to then focus our efforts on the impact that a warming world has on topography and the changing influence, the coercive effect, these changes will have on the behavior of the jet stream and ocean currents etc.

Seen in this light, the shifts in jet stream behavior are a direct result of these changes in topography interacting with a warming surface. In fact the behavior of our entire atmosphere and oceans are driven by this. Seen in this light, how might we expect the Hadley Ferrel and Polar cells to behave with an ice free Arctic or with dramatic shifts in sea surface temperatures?

Shared Humanity

Even more generally, how might a changed topography impact every atmospheric feature that we have studied and understand?

I don't understand much of what is discussed on this site, but it would seem that every single atmospheric phenomena will be subject to shifts in behavior, a result of the coercive effects of a changing topography. These shifts in atmospherics would then alter the topography which, in turn, would influence or coerce a new atmospheric regime. What are these existing atmosphere behaviors that we study?

Polar vortex, jet stream, Hadley, Ferrel and Polar cells, etc. Every one of these might be impacted.

Kevin O'Neill

Shared Humanity - topography in GCMs is limited by their resolution. There is no doubt that some processes get lost due to the coarse resolution. For instance in Effect of model resolution on a regional climate model simulation over southeast Australia the authors write:

Increasing model resolution tended to improve the simulation of present day climate, with larger improvements in areas affected by mountains and coastlines. Examination of circumstances under which increasing the resolution decreased performance revealed an error in the GCM circulation, the effects of which had been masked by the coarse GCM topography. Resolution modifications to projected changes were largest in regions with strong topographic and coastline influences, and can be large enough to change the sign of the climate change projected by the GCM.

While they are speaking specifically of the GCM used in their research, I'm sure it's true of GCMs in general. One small test of this might be to compare accuracy of weather forecasts for different areas (topographically challenging versus bland) and see if there is a significant difference in accuracy. If the weather forecasts are extremely accurate, then the local processes have to be well represented - if not, then the forecasting model is missing something.

Shared Humanity

Given that the Arctic is the most rapidly changing topographical feature, I now understand, for the 1st time why this site is singularly focused on it.

Thank you Neven for doing this, for putting so much time and effort in this site? You are a mensch.

Shared Humanity

Thanks, Kevin. Does this topographical impact suggest that Francis's theory is too simplistic or perhaps, even wrong?


Jeff Masters'

"Part of the reason that this week's cold wave did not set any all-time or monthly cold records is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so in a warming climate. As Andrew Freedman of Climate Central wrote in a blog post yesterday, "While the cold temperatures have been unusual and even deadly, climate data shows that intense cold such as this event is now occurring far less frequently in the continental U.S. than it used to. This is largely related to winter warming trends due to man-made global warming and natural climate variability." For example, in Detroit during the 1970s, there were an average of 7.9 nights with temperatures below zero. But this decade, that number has been closer to two nights."

seems a little at odds with what was said by White House's Dr. John Holdren's (posted right next to the JeffMasters quote):

"but a growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues."

A septic might be driven to suggest that the warmists should get their story straight, is it increasing in frequency or decreasing?

Of course it isn't actually a contradiction, the pattern could occur with increasing frequency but such low temperatures occur with reduced frequency.

(It is just that reading and hearing them next to next seemed a bit strange.)


The White House is hosting Google+ Hangout discussion at 2 PM ET today with prominent scientists and meteorologists to discuss the "Polar Vortex" and how singular weather events play into the larger issue of climate change.

They'll be taking questions using the hashtag #WeTheGeeks . We hope you'll join!

says a comment on the white house video.

However, judging by other comments there, I doubt it is worth trying to ask anything sensible.

Any thoughts on why they are pedalling Dr Francis' hypothesis which has been questioned in the scientific literature and suggesting increased frequency to come when they could look at frequency of such cold temperatures as Jeff Masters did demonstrating much reduced frequency of these temperatures?


Hi crandles,

Without being able to give chapter and verse, I'm fairly sure that Francis says something like "further research is needed", which could possibly also be translated as "I'm not sure the theory is right."

This issue seems to be the central battleground of the US culture wars this week; and "the first casualty of war is truth". I see Francis herself as a civilian, not a combatant, incidentally.

Shared Humanity, I think that the change in state of an ocean from solid to liquid is the biggest ongoing change of global and NH topography for 10,000 years. Where it leads, who knows.

Watch and learn, I can't tell you.

New to me, Great Balls of Ice...


Roll over, Jerry Lee Lewis.

Chris Reynolds


I think the Dr Francis is wholly convinced that her theory regards larger meanders in the jet (Rossby Waves) is correct. But she seems to think that what is being detected is at the limits of detectability, although it will get stronger (comments on Barnes).


Hi Chris,

Yes, fine, I found it hard to phrase what I hoped to say. I'm tired. At any rate, Francis is engaged in science; which is not a propaganda war.

The flipside, warmth in Scandinavia this year, reported here...


It's difficult for wildlife if they have alternating warm/cold, depending on where the jetstream wiggles are. Also, but not covered in the article, difficult for farmers.

Chris Reynolds

I saw Neven and Gas Glo (should know who that is - Crandles?) over at the Hangout discussion.

What did people think? I thought it was a bit light on science.


Hi, yes Gas Glo is me. Hope you and Neven didn't mind me sending you invites.

Chris Reynolds

No, thanks for that, I'd have missed it otherwise. It was worth watching.


Thanks from me too, crandles. It wasn't that enlightening, but it was nice seeing James Overland in person. What I find the most interesting aspect of this whole event, is that the whole jetstream-possibly-influenced-by-AGW-stuff is now slowly slipping into the collective consciousness, where more and more people learn about this. It's all mumbled up right now, but if the jet stream keeps at it, this will become common knowledge in a couple of years.

It reminds me a bit of the 1998 El Niño. At the time I was around 24 years old working on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. When I heard people talking about El Niño, I presumed it was the name of a storm. But then a couple of years later there was another El Niño and I thought: Huh, can they give two storms the same name? :-)

But then I learned. I think a lot more people nowadays know what El Niño is than before. And it will probably be the same for the polar vortex and jet stream.

Craig Merry

I think people respect the jet stream more than they do of sea ice/global warming/al gore/climate change. It's actually measurable and impacts are felt almost directly. If the question becomes more of- " is that Jet Stream meandering more on a certain time scale, about the same or less?" The discussion turns more to "well, if the planet is warming and we are actually causing some natural imbalance- then what can I or we do about it?" Science is good. And it's better for people to try to understand our planet better.

The potential for a bad drought is looming large in California and it is a subject that is coming up almost daily.

Colorado Bob

Sorry off topic, but I have seen this before, at the time it was the Friday before "Black Saturday" it was 117F degrees in the suburbs north of Melbourne :

‘A Catastrophe’: Why 100,000 Dead Bats Rained Down on Australia — and a Warning to Locals

Heat-stressed bats — including the Black Flying Foxes, Little Red Flying Foxes and the endangered Gray-Headed Flying Foxes — cling to trees and urinate on themselves in a bid to reduce their body temperatures, Saunders said.

“As they succumb, they just fall in heaps at the base of trees,” Saunders said. “You can have 250 or more — it’s like dripping chocolate — all dying at the base of trees.”



That's horrible...

Colorado Bob

Stu Ostro's Meteorology Blog

Polar Vortex, Global Warming, and Cold Weather


Stu does polar vortex 101 a great source for anyone who never heard of the vortex before January 1ST .

Colorado Bob

The Canadian War on Science: A chronological account of chaos & consolidation at the Department of Fisheries & Oceans libraries.

Colorado Bob


That's horrible...

Posted by: Neven | January 11, 2014 at 02:04

Yes, and when we think about the Earth and it's systems , we should think about how creatures adapted to heat , just up and die in the tens of thousands.
Bats, parrots , emus , kangaroos , and God what else.

It's very grim work Neven , it's very grim moel.

Colorado Bob

It's a very grim model .

Colorado Bob

This string of heat in Australia began in Sept. 2012. 16 months ago.

Things down there are at the end of their rope. Every metric says it's off the charts. Watch the next 3 months. Record numbers with no El Nino.

When El Nino finally comes back , we're all in deep shit.

Colorado Bob

As Tenberith said , the ocean can't be piling up in the western pacific forever. It wants to flow back.

Trouble is , it's nearly 14 inches above the coast of Peru. When it flips , it'll clean all our hair cuts.

Then it gets really hot in Australia.

Colorado Bob

The Canadian War on Science: A chronological account of chaos & consolidation at the Department of Fisheries & Oceans libraries.


Colorado Bob

Once again the right wing burns the libraries. Because they hate what's in them.

Chris Reynolds

Colarado Bob,

Ostro is a dissenting voice it seems. He'd certainly disagree with my blog post on the subject.


For anyone interested in the vortex.
Univ of Berlin Strato analysis, their plots include temperatures and geopotential height on the same plot. There's also historic data there.


SH, being a landscape designer, I’ve noticed some pretty memorable shifts in the niches of local climate during my lifetime too.
Summarizing, I’d say the growing season has been steadily lengthening over here. This made possible to introduce plants that, backed by early twentieth century documents and books, were restricted to SW England , Normandy and Brittany.

On the topography; it would be ridiculous if I claimed to have noticed the influence of the earth’s geomorphology on climate. It was part of basic school training in geography. The illuminating side of having joined Neven’s sea ice band of bloggers is that I’ve acquired a much more general insight on the integrated pattern of all seemingly individual features.

As I’ve been collecting 10-day means for the wave-patterns between Oct and Mar ’12-’13, I’ve noticed the preferred spatial distribution of ridges west of the Rocky Mountains and the British Isles, and troughs over the American Plains and Mongolia.
No doubt these are ‘climate means’ related to topography. But it is the amplitude, both in space and time, and their strength in view of their energy-transfer that should be main focus of our concern.

The bite in this is that ‘normal features’ get rough, last different and are relocated on a synoptic scale. There are multiple examples, FI the ones you gave for tornadoes in the US. In the generally very ‘even’ climatology of The Netherlands, it is harder to point out these changes. If pushed, I’d suggest summer thunderstorms and their rain events. The intensity and spread over the year are both rising (the frequency to a lesser extent).

I’m very worried that these changes will progressively strain all kinds of economical activities up to the point they will become unsustainable.


Brief stratospheric weirdness update:

@250 hPA, which should be the best height to oberve the jetream, IIRC, there is a tight pattern over Svarlsbard, but that spins the wrong way:


@70 hPA, there is further development towards TWO polar vortices (or, to nitpick, it's currently showing a separate Canadian eye, without there being yet an entirly separate Siberian eye):


(By clicking on the word "earth" on the link, you can flip back and watch how things have developed.)


Colorado Bob,

Looks like we might not have too long to wait:

El Nino conditions look set to develop over the next year.

Kevin McKinney

Not sure if this is 'weirdness,' exactly--maybe more like the new normal. But one of the aspects of sea ice loss that both Neven and I have referred to in the past is documented here:


Depression, grief, mourning... or as it has been termed in contexts such as this one, solastalgia.

Jai Mitchell

I wonder what Barnes' blocking pattern charts would look like if 2013 was included. Does anyone know of a dataset that tracks these patterns? As you know, 2013 was a sudden sea change with cutoff lows spinning constantly in the northern hemisphere. The surf in northern California was a solid 7'swell from the northwest all summer long due to a few spinning cutoff lows that lingered throughout the JJA. This was an unprecedented event in the memory of the surf community here since the 60's. I wonder if Barnes' counted cutoff lows by incidence and not by persistence. In that case a 12-month long blocking ridge would only count as a single event.

additionally, a metric that tracks the intensity of the northern hemisphere Hadley cell would show how it became severely reduced after the summer of 2012. This as opposed to the strong expansion of the Hadley cell that is causing the heatwaves in Australia and Argentina.


Now there's a nice word:

As opposed to nostalgia — the melancholia or distress experienced by individuals when separated from a loved home (A.K.A. homesickness) — "solastalgia" is the distress that is produced by environmental change impacting on people while they are directly connected to their home environment.

You're homesick while being at home. Poetic, really.

Thanks, Kevin.

Kevin McKinney

You're welcome, Neven. Yes, it's a good word; it's just too bad that we need it. (And almost surely, more frequently over time.)

I encountered it in Amy Seidl's book, "Adaptation", which I wrote about here a while back:


Hans Gunnstaddar

We're suffering from "solastalgia" due to a lack of rainfall here in California.

Today was our best chance of rain for some weeks past as forecasts from two online forecasters put the odds at 70 & 80% on the last two days before Sat., then Sat. nite dropped it to 40%, then on Sat. itself dropped it to 20%. So far it has not rained a drop in our neck of the woods (in no. ca just above SF), but maybe it will drop snow on the Sierras.

Jan. 3rd the first snow pack assessment for the Sierras, which came in at 19% of normal. 5 days later it had reduced to 17%.

Tuesday is forecast to be 70F, and the next rain is a 10% chance on 1-20.

Next date for possible rain is 1-20 at 10%.


Hans, the rains have returned up this way at least for a few days. Like you say the forecast calls for dry weather again as the ridge builds back in. I had about 40" of rain in 2013 which is drier than normal...about 8" below normal. Had it not been for 1 day in August with over 4" of rain and another day in September with another 4" of rain from those cutoff lows/quasi land subtropical depressions moving in from the southeast it would have been an exceptionally dry year. At this rate winter will be over and there will only be a little bit of snow up in the mountains.

Hans Gunnstaddar

VaughnA, I saw the satellite this afternoon showing rains in Oregon and figured you were getting yours. No festivus for the rest of us down here, but still have part of Jan., Feb. & March to go. We need the impending El Nino to kick in, kick butt and fill the reservoirs.

I wonder if this will be another case of stuck weather, with El Nino kicking in next winter. We'll get so deluged there will be mudslides, etc.

Craig Merry

Better than drought; bring on the El Niño!


A question I have is, "Will an el nino have the same effect as in the past, i.e. deluges in California, or will the persistent blocking ridge prevail?" With new weather regimes seemingly the rule more than the exception I am not really sure which way things will go anymore.
Also, according to Cryosphere Today the NH sea ice anomaly is back below 1,000,000 km^2 at -1.027m km^2.


Colorado Bob

" A question I have is, "Will an el nino have the same effect as in the past, "

An excellent question VA. In Australia, it used to mean drought and heat, but the last 16 months there seem to have proved that old pattern may no longer be in effect.

Colorado Bob

There is a phrase with climate change, it goes like this :

People are standing in wreckage, mud, and or ashes. The spokesman utters these words -

"We've never seen this before."

Perth Australia just booked their hottest night in 117 years of records, and the island chain of Tongo just got a Cat 5 cyclone.


I looked back and I see more effects from thinner sea ice, especially the OLR relation, and also a comparison between December 2013 and 1981, the December 2013 giving the Polar Vortex as opposed to 1981 having equally cold winter in Europe and North America


"In Australia, it used to mean drought and heat, but the last 16 months there seem to have proved that old pattern may no longer be in effect."

We won't really know until the next substantial El Nino. I, for one, am not looking forward to it.

(I've currently got our house battened down in anticipation of 5 days straight of +40C temperatures. It's now noon and it's already >38 in the city centre. We won't have an overnight temperature below about 26C for the next four nights. If any of your southern Australian friends or relatives seem a bit grumpy during this week, you'll know why.)

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