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Arctic Amplification

April 17, 2012 by Tony Noerpel filed under Columns, Sustainable Planet 2 Comments
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The weather during the last decade has become increasingly weird and extreme. The occurrence of persistent weather events such as droughts, floods, heat waves and cold spells is increasing. The evidence that the most extreme events are linked to human-caused global warming is compelling. NASA climate scientists James Hansen, Makiko Sato and Reto Ruedy write [1] “we can state with a high degree of confidence that extreme summers, such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010, are a consequence of global warming, because global warming has dramatically increased their likelihood of occurrence.” This is also the conclusion of several other peer-reviewed scientific journal articles [2]. Such sentiment is also being reported in the main stream media for example by Alexandra Steel on CNN [3]. Even television meteorologists such as Stu Ostro a Senior Meteorologist on The Weather Channel who were recently deniers have come around to this view [4].

Figure 1. Frequency of occurrence of local temperature anomalies in units of the local standard deviation. Anomalies are relative to the 1951-1980 base period. Source Hansen et al.

Figure 1 from the Hansen paper, shows the northern hemisphere summer temperature anomaly in standard deviations [5] from the mean 1951 to 1980 temperature. The summer temperatures are normally distributed. One standard deviation is exceeded 15.8 percent of the time in one of the two directions. Two standard deviations are exceeded only 2.3 percent of the time. Three standard deviations are exceeded only 0.13 percent of the time. The probability of exceeding four standard deviations is less than 0.003 percent and the probability of exceeding five standard deviations is less than 0.00003 percent of the time. Note that the distribution functions are getting broader with time, which means there will be more extremes and relative to the decade between 1951 and 1961, the mean temperature is getting warmer. Together, this means that warm temperatures will be set much more frequently than cold temperatures. In fact there is now a 10 percent probability that the summer temperature will exceed a value which in the 1950’s had less than a 0.13 percent chance of happening (greater than three standard deviations). Hansen et al write “Recent examples of summer temperature anomalies exceeding +3? [standard deviations] include the heat wave and drought in Oklahoma, Texas and Mexico in 2011 and a larger region encompassing much of the Middle East, Western Asia and Eastern Europe, including Moscow, in 2010.”

Identifying the strong correlation between extreme weather and global warming is not nearly as satisfying to the skeptical mind as understanding the physics that explains the correlation. The most obvious physical explanation is that in a warmer world there is more energy in the atmosphere, in the oceans and on the surface of the terrestrial earth and more energy will naturally fuel more energetic weather. Hurricanes have always been associated with high sea surface temperatures.

Another interesting phenomenon is polar amplification or more accurately arctic amplification. The poles tend to warm (or cool) faster than the tropics and temperate zones. When Svante Arrhenius first described the potential for human-caused global warming in 1896, he identified this feature of climate change [6]. While the earth has warmed one degree in the last 40 years, the arctic has warmed more than two degrees. There are several explanations for this. The most important and most obvious reason is the change in surface albedo in the arctic and sub-arctic [7]. The snow and ice reflect most of the incoming short wave solar energy back out into space while the dark ocean and land which are replacing it absorb most of this energy and as a consequence heat up. In the last three decades the arctic sea ice has declined by 40 percent. For a good illustration of the difference in albedo around Lake Superior, see figure 2 below from Jeff Master’s weather underground web site [8]. Note the difference between a cold winter with lots of snow and ice and a relatively warm dry winter with no snow and ice.

In a recent paper appearing in a March 2012 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University and Stephen Vavrus of the University of Wisconsin explain [9] that arctic amplification causes the west-to-east winds of the jet stream, the river of wind separating the warm temperate climate to the south from the frigid arctic climate to the north, to slow. In fact the jet stream’s west winds around the northern hemisphere have slowed about 14 percent since 1980. They write that, “the differential warming of the Arctic relative to midlatitudes is the key linking AA [Arctic Amplification] with patterns favoring persistent weather conditions in mid-latitudes.” And, “Slower progression of upper-level waves causes more persistent weather conditions that can increase the likelihood of certain types of extreme weather, such as drought, prolonged precipitation, cold spells, and heat waves.”

The jet stream flow of air follows a serpentine path as it drifts north and south between about 30 degrees and 60 degrees latitude. The southward dips are called troughs and the northern peaks are called ridges. This phenomenon is shown in Figure 3 below. The slower eastward migration of waves in the jet stream causes weather to stall, favoring persistent conditions that can lead to extreme weather if they last a long time. The south winds behind the ridges pull tropical humid warm air northward, while north winds behind the troughs pull arctic air south. As shown in Figure 3, the ridges are occurring further north, which slows down the wave progression even more.

Francis and Vavrus conclude: “As the Arctic sea-ice cover continues to disappear and the snow cover melts ever earlier over vast regions of Eurasia and North America, it is expected that large-scale circulation patterns throughout the northern hemisphere will become increasingly influenced by Arctic Amplification. Gradual warming of the globe may not be noticed by most, but everyone – either directly or indirectly – will be affected to some degree by changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events as greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere.”

The slowing of waves in the jet stream may explain both persistent cold events, such as the 2009/2010 winter over the eastern United States, as well as persistent droughts and heat waves such as over Texas and Oklahoma during 2011. Francis has written a more accessible explanation on the Yale Environment 360 web site [10]. I asked Dr. Francis in an e-mail if climatologists expect this trend to continue and she responded: “Our results suggest that the enhanced warming in the Arctic relative to the rest of the globe is causing our weather patterns to move more slowly. This means that the types of extreme weather that are caused by prolonged weather conditions — such as droughts, cold spells, heat waves, and floods — are becoming more likely. This tendency is expected to continue as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere and as additional sea ice is lost.”

I also asked if accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide would have a more pronounced impact on polar climate than global climate. My observation was that carbon dioxide and water vapor absorb long wave heat radiation at some of the same wavelengths thus blunting a bit the impact of additional carbon dioxide. But the arctic being cold has very little water vapor so the impact of an increase in carbon dioxide is much stronger than in the temperate zones. Dr. Francis confirmed this hypothesis and sent me a paper describing just this phenomenon [11].

Figure 3. Region of study: 140oW to 0o. Schematic of ridge elongation (dashed vs. solid) in upper-level heights caused by enhanced warming in Arctic relative to mid-latitudes. Higher amplitude waves progress eastward more slowly, as indicated by arrows. Source: Francis and Vavrus.

Figure 2. A tale of two winters: Lake Superior was choked with ice at the end of the winter of 2008 – 2009 (top), but was virtually ice-free at the end of the winter of 2011 – 2012 (bottom.) Image credit: NASA. Source: Jeff Masters.

[1] James Hansen, Makiko Sato and Reto Ruedy, “Perceptions of Climate Change: The New Climate Dice”, submitted to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2012/20120105_PerceptionsAndDice.pdf

[2] That the recent extreme heat events are caused by anthropogenic global warming is in fact the conclusion of a PNAS paper by Stefan Rahmstorf and Dim Coumou http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/10/18/1101766108.abstract That the Moscow drought was caused by global warming is the conclusion of yet another recently published paper in The Geophysical Research Letters http://www.agu.org/news/press/pr_archives/2012/2012-10.shtml. That the droughts in the Mediterranean region are a result of climate change has been reported by NOAA scientists in the journal Climate Change http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2011/20111027_drought.html .

[3] http://dailycaller.com/2012/04/03/cnn-meteorologist-todays-tornadoes-are-climate-change-we-are-seeing/#ixzz1r5BqMMUl

[4] Stu Ostro, Senior Meteorologist, The Weather Channel see http://climatecrocks.com/2010/12/03/stu-ostro-the-weather-channels-former-skeptic/ by the way, in this video, Ostro, in my opinion misuses the word skeptic. Skepticism is indeed a healthy part of science but it requires one to question everything, not simply that with which one disagrees. Deniers do not do this because no denier argument can stand even the weakest scrutiny. A real skeptic frames her skepticism as a testable counter hypothesis and being testable requires that a real skeptic is willing to be wrong as pointed out by Gabrielle Walker in her book Snowball Earth. For another recent convert see http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2012/03/29/454476/a-message-from-a-republican-meteorologist-on-climate-change/

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_deviation

[6] Svante Arrhenius, “On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground”, Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, Series 5, Volume 41, April 1896, pages 237-276. http://www.rsc.org/images/Arrhenius1896_tcm18-173546.pdf

[7] http://www.skepticalscience.com/kick-in-the-ice.html

[8] Jeff Masters, http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/show.html

[9] Francis, J. A. and S. J. Vavrus, “Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes, Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 39, March, 2012.

[10] http://e360.yale.edu/feature/linking_weird_weather_to_rapid_warming_of_the_arctic/2501/

[11] V. A. Alexeev, P. L. Langen, J. R. Bates, Polar ampli?cation of surface warming on an aquaplanet in ‘‘ghost forcing’’ experiments without sea ice feedbacks, Climate Dynamics (2005), DOI 10.1007/s00382-005-0018-3

2 comments

  1. klem says:

    All of this makes me ask, How long must climate alarmists observe normal climate variability before they will finally admit they have been observing normal climate variability?

    • Tony Noerpel says:

      Hi klem

      That you for reading my article and taking the time to ask a question. As my next article has soon relevant information, I’ve attached my answer to the end of “Global Warming discovered – Again”.

      Best regards

      Tony

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FREE VAL Lawn Chair or Picnic Blanket for the first 50 families each week! Check out your film favorites at our NEW summer outdoor movie series. Grab refreshments from your favorite VAL restaurant, bring your own lawn chair and have fun! Go to VillageAtLeesburg.com for full schedule. For inclement weather updates, visit Facebook.com/VillageAtLeesburg. One giveaway per family, while quantities last. July 23 – Despicable Me PG  119 mins

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July 28, 2014

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The Blue Ridge Thunder Cloggers are offering two, fun summer camps!  If you've never clogged before, join us July 28 - Aug 1 for our Novice Camp.  Hours are 9:00am - 12:00pm.  If you are an experienced clogger, join us Aug 4 - Aug 8 from 9:00am - 12:00pm for our Experienced Camp.  Ages 8 through adult.  $50 per camp.

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The Blue Ridge Thunder Cloggers are offering two, fun summer camps!  If you've never clogged before, join us July 28 - Aug 1 for our Novice Camp.  Hours are 9:00am - 12:00pm.  If you are an experienced clogger, join us Aug 4 - Aug 8 from 9:00am - 12:00pm for our Experienced Camp.  Ages 8 through adult.  $50 per camp.

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Waterford, 20197
540.454.8639

The Blue Ridge Thunder Cloggers are offering two, fun summer camps!  If you've never clogged before, join us July 28 - Aug 1 for our Novice Camp.  Hours are 9:00am - 12:00pm.  If you are an experienced clogger, join us Aug 4 - Aug 8 from 9:00am - 12:00pm for our Experienced Camp.  Ages 8 through adult.  $50 per camp.

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Blue Ridge Thunder Cloggers Summer Camps

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July 31, 2014

38327 Charles Town Pike
Waterford, 20197
540.454.8639

The Blue Ridge Thunder Cloggers are offering two, fun summer camps!  If you've never clogged before, join us July 28 - Aug 1 for our Novice Camp.  Hours are 9:00am - 12:00pm.  If you are an experienced clogger, join us Aug 4 - Aug 8 from 9:00am - 12:00pm for our Experienced Camp.  Ages 8 through adult.  $50 per camp.

1

Blue Ridge Thunder Cloggers Summer Camps

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August 1, 2014

38327 Charles Town Pike
Waterford, 20197
540.454.8639

The Blue Ridge Thunder Cloggers are offering two, fun summer camps!  If you've never clogged before, join us July 28 - Aug 1 for our Novice Camp.  Hours are 9:00am - 12:00pm.  If you are an experienced clogger, join us Aug 4 - Aug 8 from 9:00am - 12:00pm for our Experienced Camp.  Ages 8 through adult.  $50 per camp.

2

Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) Child Safety Day

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August 2, 2014

Village at Leesburg
1602 Village Market Blvd.
Leesburg, 20175
USA

Saturday, August 2 from 12pm-4pm  FREE

Get up close to awesome rescue squad vehicles and cool interactive displays! Enjoy music, inflatables,  prizes and giveaways and more fun. Go to VillageAtLeesburg.com for full schedule.

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

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August 2, 2014

Notaviva Vineyards
13274 Sagle Rd
Purcellville, 20132
540-668-6756

Notaviva Vineyards presents their monthly Bluegrass Jam a FREE event held the first Saturday of every month!

An event for all ages featuring Ashby Run. Open to players of every skill level

3pm-6pm Saturday 7/5

Wine available by the glass and by the bottle, lite snacks available. Must be 21 to drink alcohol.

Summer Saturdays

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August 2, 2014

Village at Leesburg
1602 Village Market Blvd SE
Leesburg, 20175
USA
5712912288

Village at Leesburg presents a music concert series. Come listen to various artists on Saturday July 19th, Saturday August 2nd, Saturday August 9th, Saturday August 16th, Saturday August 30th, Sunday August 31st, and Monday September 1st at Village at Leesburg in Fountain Court. There will be performances by Paul Pfau & Connor Pledger (R&B former The Voice contestants), Julian Roso (Acoustic Pop), Todd Wright Band (Alternative Pop Covers), Poorhouse Rd (Americana Blues), Music Bone (Electric Rock/Jazz), Gina de Simone & The Moaners (Swing/Dance), AJ Sith & The Apollo (Indie Rock) on alternating nights. For the full music schedule please visit villageatleesburg.com

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Recent Comments

View From the Ridge

There’s a New Gang in Town – And Isn’t It Time?

3 Jun 2014

blueridge2

For many, the recent town-wide elections in Purcellville present all of western Loudoun with a significant opportunity to launch a more citizen-focused future. On July 1 there will be a new mayor and a decidedly different balance of power on the Purcellville Town Council, as four new members with fresh …

(4 comments)

Editorial

War Madness

25 Jul 2014

dying gaul

The Dying Gaul By John P. Flannery In a world that prefers to war, can’t get enough of it, innocents are killed, and those senseless incidents in turn provoke more war. It happened in the Ukraine and the testosterone is running high. Ukraine calls to the West to put up or shut up with military force, not just economic sanctions. …

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Bed and Breakfasts – Boon or Threat to the Rural Economy?

3 Jun 2014

malcolm_pamela_011

By Malcolm and Pamela Baldwin Breaking news, in case you missed it: the Board of Supervisors has created new rules for bed-and-breakfast establishments in Loudoun, among them an increase in the number and frequency of events – such as weddings – B&Bs are allowed to host on their properties. At the same time, the board also tightened fire safety, building …

(3 comments)

Lifestyle

Feed Loudoun – Fresh Food Drive

27 Jul 2014

Photo attached courtesy Julia Brizendine: What is gleaning? It is the harvesting of food for the needy. This tradition goes back to ancient times when landholders allowed folks in need to harvest left-over crops. In eighteenth century England, the sexton would often ring a church bell at eight o'clock in the morning and again at seven in the evening to alert needy families when they were invited to collect crops. As a volunteer, gleaning is a fun, family activity that usually lasts no more than about 2 hours on a beautiful day. It is also a good activity for groups who are looking for community outreach projects.

Special report by Mark Gunderman Photo courtesy Julia Brizendine: What is gleaning? It is the harvesting of food for the needy. This tradition goes back to ancient times when landholders allowed folks in need to harvest left-over crops. In eighteenth century England, the sexton would often ring a church bell at eight o’clock in the morning and again at seven …

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Susan Greenbaum to Perform in Middleburg

17 Jul 2014

Susan_Greenbaum-live

The Bluemont Concert Series is proud to present Susan Greenbaum on Saturday, July 26 for the last of our four Saturday evening concerts in Middleburg. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. The Middleburg concerts are now held at the Middleburg Community Center baseball field, located at 300 West Washington Street. Admission is $5 per person, $4 for Bluemont Friends and …

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Woodgrove High School Debate Camp

15 Jul 2014

Ms. Purvis’s WHS Debate Team is conducting a debate camp this summer from August 4 through August 8. It will be held each day from 8:00 to 11:30 a.m. at Woodgrove High School and is open to students who will be attending Woodgrove HS or Loudoun Valley HS. The purpose of the camp is to introduce aspiringdebaters to the art …

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Wild Loudoun

Fireflies – Green Sequins Of The Night

3 Jul 2014

fireflies jar

I don’t usually start my Wild Loudoun column by sharing information about the scientific classification into which a given plant, animal or insect falls. But, in the case of the firefly, it’s too fun not too … Fireflies are part of an insect family known as Lampyridae … as in “lamp.” Of course they are, you say. Firefly larva – …

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Around Virginia

VDOE Names Chief Academic Officer

Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples today announced that John William “Billy” Haun of Charlottesville will become the Virginia Department of Education’s chief academic officer, taking the position of assistant superintendent of instruction on September 1. “I am delighted that Billy is bringing his knowledge, leadership and innovative ideas …

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LaRock Appointed to Joint Commission on Technology and Science

Dave_larock

Speaker of the House William Howell has appointed Delegate Dave LaRock as a member of the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS), effective immediately and lasting for the duration of his term in the House of Delegates. The Commission meets several times throughout the year to “Study all aspects …

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Virginia Earns Top Special Education Rating from U.S. Department of Education

Virginia is one of only 18 states and territories earning a “meets requirements” designation under the US Department of Education’s (USED) new results-driven accountability model for rating state compliance with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Previously in rating states, USED focused on procedural requirements such as timelines …

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Sports

Ida Lee NFL Flag Football League Registration Ends July 28

20 Jul 2014

NFL_Flag_Football_at_IdaLee

Registration for the Fall 2014 NFL Flag Football league is currently ongoing for boys and girls, ages six to 14, and spots are filling fast. To secure a spot in the league, participants must register by Monday, July 28, 2014. The Ida Lee NFL Flag Football League is the premier …

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Lady Vikings Claim District Lacrosse Title

3 Jun 2014

ladyvikings

By Mac Shuford The Loudoun Valley girls lacrosse team beat Woodgrove 10-7 on May 22 for the district championship. It was a hard fought victory and a long time coming as Valley had never beaten Woodgrove until this game, having narrowly lost last year’s district and regional Titles in the …

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Letters

Good News – Virginia Budget Passed

3 Jul 2014

speak

I hope folks have heard the good news that Virginia has passed a two-year budget, and passed it without allowing our new governor to force …

(3 comments)

T-Mac Does an O’Bama

24 Jun 2014

blueridge2

Everyone by now has heard that the Virginia Legislature was able to pass a budget without medicaid expansion. This has infuriated the Governor who has …

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De-couple Medicaid Expansion from the Commonwealth’s Budget

11 Jun 2014

blueridge2

At a September 25, 2103, debate sponsored by the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, then Mr. McAuliffe declared, “No budget will be shut down in Virginia …

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