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United States Earth Science

Extreme Winter Weather In the US Linked To a Warming Arctic ( 219

A new study shows how global climate change can have ripple effects at the local level. According to the research, extreme winter weather is two to four times more likely in the eastern U.S. when the Arctic is unusually warm. The Verge reports: Researchers analyzed a variety of atmospheric data in the Arctic, as well as how severe winter weather was in 12 cities across the U.S. from 1950 to 2016. Since 1990, as the Arctic has been warming up and losing ice, extreme cold snaps and heavy snow in the winter have been two to four times more frequent in the eastern U.S. and the Midwest, while in the western U.S., their frequency has decreased, according to a study published today in Nature Communications. The study, however, only shows there might be a correlation -- not a direct causal link -- between the warming Arctic and severe winters in the U.S. And it doesn't show how exactly the two are connected, so it doesn't really add much to what scientists already knew, according to several experts.

Today's study focuses on the Arctic as the main culprit for the extreme winter weather. Previous research has suggested that the warming Arctic may disrupt the polar vortex, a ring of swirling cold air circling the North Pole. Think of the polar vortex as a river, says study co-author Judah Cohen, a climatologist and director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research. The fast flow of this river locks up the cold air over the Arctic. But as the Arctic warms -- especially in some areas like the Barents-Kara seas north of Europe and Russia -- a boulder springs up in this river, disrupting the polar vortex and allowing the freezing Arctic air to flow south, Cohen says.

Extreme Winter Weather In the US Linked To a Warming Arctic

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  • In the end (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @09:06AM (#56258313)

    Climate change doesn't care whether you believe in it or not

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 )

      However there are enough people pigheaded enough to vote in people who will be willing to actively ignore the issue. vs electing ones willing to take steps to help mitigate the effects with balanced policies.

      There is a difference between a politician going climate change is a Hoax. Lets go burn more fuel. vs one saying Climate change is real, however stopping from burning fuel at this point is irresponsible, but lets take steps to change this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by argStyopa ( 232550 )

      If it's used to explain literally everything, of course it's real.

    • Re:In the end (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @10:54AM (#56259007)

      The 5 stages of climate change denial.

      1. There is no climate change.
      2. There is no conclusive evidence that there really is any change.
      3. There might be some change, but it's not man-made.
      4. Ok, so we're partly responsible, but we can't change that quickly now, we'd have had to start earlier.
      5. Ok, so we're fully responsible, but it's too late to do anything anyway, so why bother trying?

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by Jerry ( 6400 )

        The worst problem with AGW is that it cannot be falsified. That changes it from a science to a religion. There was a similar occurrence in the USSR. It is now called Lysenkoism. A "science" in which scientific fact is determined by politics.

        Too much rain -- AGW
        Not enough rain --AGW
        Too hot -- AGW
        Too cold --AGW
        Despite covering all their bases with hedges the basic "predictions" (usually after the fact) have been always wrong. Even worse, proponents are deliberately altering or destroying historic

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          AGW can be falsified. Here's the experiment:

          Continue to add CO2 to the atmosphere. If we observe that average global temperatures drop over a statistically significant period then the hypothesis is disproved.

          Unfortunately we've been conducting this experiment for decades and the haven't seen the observations that would disprove the hypothesis.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            First, control for all other variables.

            What? You don't know what those variables are? Hint: They are finding new ones every fucking day.

        • Seems pretty easy to falsify to me. Just falsify the prevailing conclusion that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Have you done that yet?
      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        Sounds like Monty Pyton.

        (Storms, wild fires, hurricanes.)

        "It is nothing. It is but a l;ight breeze. Come back!! We will call the discussion a draw."

      • What step am I at?

        I don't give a shit.
        Honestly, no, I *truly* don't.

        Climate will change.

  • I would be curious to know how "extreme" is defined. Granted, I'm in the northeast US so my personal experiences have been limited to that area, but I don't feel like the weather has been extreme at all. Perhaps people may look at the events of the past few weeks and say "OMG, we've gotten several nor'easters in a row...the end of the world is coming." But if you look back over a couple of years, the winters haven't been particularly harsh on average.

    I'd be interested in seeing the actual data.

    In any eve

    • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @09:16AM (#56258391) Homepage
      They defined extreme weather under the Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index which looks primarily at rapid changes in temperature and unusually heavy snowfalls. The metric is a standard one you can find more about here []. Note that the AWSSI does not include wind, general precipitation, or most unusually high temperature events.
    • Re:Extreme? (Score:5, Informative)

      by oh_my_080980980 ( 773867 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @09:58AM (#56258675)

      "Using a recently developed index of severe winter weather, we show that the occurrence of severe winter weather in the United States is significantly related to anomalies in pan-Arctic geopotential heights and temperatures" []

      It often explains what's missing from a headline and summary....
    • "The study, however, only shows there might be a correlation -- not a direct causal link -- between the warming Arctic and severe winters in the U.S. And it doesn't show how exactly the two are connected."

      Hard to say if this is the usual tree hugger bias here or just sloppy reporting (or likely is slashdot after all).

      The story itself is just one of those noncommittal fluff pieces, I'm surprised they didn't get a flat earther to chime in, since all ideas have equal weight in such fluff.

      But assuming a rotating globular landmass with a tilted axis wobbling it's way around it's energy source, there will be a variance in the amount of energy received and during the the times when the polar region is most opposed to the energy source, the less energy received and the colder the region.

      Then coupled with the Coriolis effe

  • Here in NJ we had temperature-wise about average January, much warmer than average February and slightly below average March so far.
    1 snow fall in January
    a few medium snow storms in March

    Back in 1996 we had extreme snowstorms
    In 2011 lots of snow attributed to La Nina.

    Really, this "global " scaremongering is getting tiresome.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by HalAtWork ( 926717 )

      No we haven't, in south Jersey there have been at least four big snow storms here that have closed schools, work, and highways. Normally we barely have to put on a sweater in the winter and barely get an inch of snow in January and that's it. Now we have a lot of deaths on the road by people who have never had to drive in such weather before.

      Florida even got snow in December and twice in January.

    • by NJRoadfan ( 1254248 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @11:40AM (#56259331)
      You left out the 80F day in February, first in recorded history and that cold spell in the beginning of January.
    • Here in NJ......Really, this "global " scaremongering is getting tiresome.

      That's beautiful. You started and ended your pointless rant with the perfect summary of why it's pointless, and why you don't get it.

      We get that NJ seems like the entire world to you. However, you might be shocked to learn that there is more out there than the Jersey Shore and NYC.

  • Correlation? (Score:2, Interesting)

    The study, however, only shows there might be a correlation -- not a direct causal link -- between the warming Arctic and severe winters in the U.S. And it doesn't show how exactly the two are connected, so it doesn't really add much to what scientists already knew, according to several experts.

    Wow, really? It's all happening on the same fucking planet. There, I explained it.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "When the rooster crows, the sun comes up! With the population of roosters declining, the world is doomed to eternal darkness! It's all on the same planet, people!"

    • It's a tenuous connection. Today it was sunny in Tokyo but rainy in Stockton. They're on the same planet, but there isn't much of a connection.

      Maybe this climate event is of similar tenuousness. Watch them make a prediction based on this data and see what the result is, and that will strengthen the confidence in a connection.
      • But climate change is about average temperatures, presence or lack of gases in the atmosphere, etc. And it's all in the same closed system.

        • Right. This study didn't show that the two effects were connected by climate change. It only showed that they happened at the same time.

          Future research might show that they were both caused by climate change. Or not, we don't know, that's why it's future research.
  • by Terje Mathisen ( 128806 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @09:43AM (#56258595)

    Pretty much all serious attempts at modelling global weather/climate points to one important correlation:

    More heat (= more energy) in the atmosphere means that we get more extreme weather.

    I think 2017 in particular but most years since 2000 have had a lot more (Carribean/US) hurricanes than what used to be normal.

    Here in Norway we have had a bunch of warmer winters but also winters with far more precipitation which (when the weather is still cold enough) gives us more snow. At the main meteorological office here in Oslo the snow cover is within 2cm of the highest ever measured.


    • by Anonymous Coward

      According to NOAA, the average number of Atlantic hurricanes per year in the 1968-2016 era was 6.2. with a standard deviation of 2.9
      In the years 2000-2016, there were only 3 years with numbers of cyclones that exceeded the average by 1 sigma.
      There were 2 years that had fewer numbers of cyclones (by more than 1 sigma). All the other years were average, within +/- 1 sigma.

    • More heat (= more energy) in the atmosphere means that we get more extreme weather.


      A rise of one or two or even three degrees? Our instinct or gut might tell us, "doesn't sound like much".

      But, think about how much energy it takes to raise the average temperature of something as big as an entire planet.

  • by Orne ( 144925 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @09:50AM (#56258627) Homepage

    So, our company contracts long-term weather forecasts from DTN [], which is a company that produces weather outlook for industrial utilities and agriculture in the US and Europe. They use a variety of information to estimate future weather (monthly to decade scale), and in the process, comment on how current year weather matches historical weather. They look at multi-decade trends, and point out how this season is very similar to the 1950s, etc.

    The comment in last quarter's winter forecast had to do with the "polar vortex" event that is leading to the "extreme" cold snaps across the US over the last 4 years or so. There are two factors at stake here, one being the "tightness" of the high-altitude wind currents around the arctic, and a secondary "rotation" effect. Imagine that there is an oval above the arctic that oscillates short and wide, mostly centered over the pole. The boundary is like a ripple that we see as wind currents. When it is circular, cold air is trapped up by the pole, and we have mild winters in the northern continents. However, over time, the polar winds oscillate north and south, which leads to daily oscillations in weather over the winter. What we see as large temperature swings are just the wind currents oscillating past.

    If the oval becomes elongated, it allows the cold air to be pulled farther south, what we call the "polar vortex" with "abnormally" colder weather than average. Cold air is pulled down from the north, then hot air is pulled up from the south, and the intersection results in more winter storms than average, depending on humidity. But that dip pattern is also not stationary, it rotates on a multi-decade-long scale. In the 1990s, the polar vortex was over Russia / East Asia, and they observed the temperature swings. The North Americans (in our short-sightedness) think that if it didn't happen here, it didn't happen. But now two decades later, the elongation has rotated over us, and suddenly we're all freaking out about catastrophic weather changes.

    The forecaster's point was all of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.

    • Thank you for the post!

      It's been a long time since I've seen a Slashdot post that was informative and not critically partisan.

      Whether your conclusion is right or wrong makes no difference - that can be discussed. It was a great post.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      Please let everybody out of jail. Crimes have happend before and will happen again. No reason to do anything.
      Yes, this includes rape and murder.

  • ...are we going to do about it? I mean what effective thing are we going to do about it? Not a damned thing. We absolutely, positively have to burn fossil fuels or we're going to go back to living in caves... after about 95% of the population eats each other until it is small enough to be supported by farming with animals for power.

    Eventually - 50, 100 years, maybe more, we'll have nuclear fusion and or sufficient wind turbines or geothermal or something AND we'll have a really effective battery or su

    • You left out solar. Way more powerful than wind or anything else except nuclear. Oil and coal are chemically stored solar. It is true that massive power is spread out over the whole daytime surface of earth... but space has a lot more if you can transmit it (remember intensity is higher; and duh... space.) Furthermore, we do not utilize most solar spectrum with today's PV.

      Every 1 calorie of food we eat takes 10 calories of fossil fuels... and I never found a good estimate on calories of solar... but it

      • Yeah, I tend to leave out solar because it is inoperable or diminished so often because the sun isn't always available. I like solar, but it doesn't do a thing for you at night, and when it is available, it is too available, and produces more power than is being used, and so can't be fully exploited without batteries big enough and cheap enough for us to use. And since solar is over-available on sunny days, the power is sold for such a low price, due to supply and demand, that it's a profitability probl

  • by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @10:51AM (#56258977)

    This just points out that we can't really rely on our existing models of global warming and the weather changes it might bring. The entire system is so complex that our current understanding of it is woefully incomplete. We're at the stage where, while we know a lot, there's still too much of 'we don't know what we don't know' for us to make detailed predictions with any confidence.

    We need to be putting A LOT more money and effort into understanding and predicting these changes and their associated timeframes. First, we'll need to plan how to protect ourselves. Second, all that data and understanding will increase our chances of finding and evaluating safe ways to slow, and perhaps reverse, AGW.

  • and Siberia gets a bit warmer, Russia will be able to get to all those untapped resources (way more than the US) and the US will lose pretty much its main geographical advantage, the one that is responsible for most of its wealth (a comprehensive river transport system linked to prime agricultural land).

    I was reading that the hegemony of the US will probably last another 2-300 years, but climate change is probably the most likely thing to change that.

  • It is obvious these articles usual coincide with some extreme weather event. But in truth weather across the US has been mostly tame the last few years. There is less snow fall for example: []

    Weather isn't an indicator of global warming. When people use it it always blows up in their faces and makes people question its existance. Stop doing that! The caps could melt, we could be ten feet under water, but it may be a sunny day.

  • by foxalopex ( 522681 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2018 @12:10PM (#56259595)

    I've noticed even in my remote city that climate change is hitting us hard. In the last few years, we've seen a massive increase in sever downpours that I'm sure didn't happen in my youth. It's caused almost a million dollar deficit in the city funds because of all the upgrades they've had to make to handle these new storms so I definitely notice a change.

    And to be honest it's not that hard to battle climate change, even small efforts help a lot. I've switched all my lights to high quality LEDs for example, it's lowered my power bill, bulbs never burn out. I couldn't afford a pure electric car and they don't work too well in my cold climate so I ended up getting a Volt and it works. It runs gas free through the entire summer almost. But the key is folks need to try. Too many folks seem to think they can't change and sadly many of these efforts end up saving time and money as well.

  • [ sarcasm ] Yay, this means there'll be more opportunities for entrepreneurial spirited Americans to invest in creating economic activity in:

    • - Distaster relief
    • - Storm damage mitigation and repair
    • - Alternatives to telecommunications technologies that are susceptible to extreme weather conditions, blackouts, etc.
    • - Climate refugee services
    • - And lots more!

    [ / sarcasm ]

  • Drummed up by globalist to get to the "one world order" nonsense. The SUN is in a QUIET period. Lack of sunspots, lack of disturbances in the corona, lack of coronal mass ejections, lowering of the sun output, has a DIRECT impact on our little rock. When we have little electromagnetic disruptions to our sphere, the weather patterns change. Couple that with the movement of the magnetic pole and you get problems of "climate change". Well of course our climate changes...but man doesn't have the impact you t
    • Actually, climate scientists monitor solar output, for obvious reasons. The surface of the planet is warming relative to what you'd expect from the solar output.

Round Numbers are always false. -- Samuel Johnson