How Climate Change Is Making Winter Colder in the Northeast US

How Climate Change Is Making Winter Colder in the Northeast USSource: Pexels

Rising temperatures are weakening the jet stream, allowing frigid Arctic air to reach further south.

Early this week, record cold blasted the Northeast, as Boston, Massachusetts saw a high of 10 degrees F, and nearby Worcester saw the temperature top out at just 1 degree F. Meteorologists say this is just the beginning of a lengthy stretch of freezing weather.

Paradoxically, frosty winter temperatures in some areas have been linked to rising temperatures around the globe. Climate change is distorting weather systems, yielding colder winter weather in parts of the world, including much of the United States. One reason for this phenomenon is a weakening of the polar jet stream, the air current circling the Arctic.

 

The polar jet stream. Source: NASA

The jet stream is the result of the difference in temperature between colder northern latitudes and temperate southern latitudes. Warm air from the equator is colliding with cold air from the Arctic, and a ribbon of powerful winds runs the length of the collision. Ushered along by the rotation of the Earth, this air current is moving west to east at speeds upwards of 200 miles per hour.

The jet stream is strongest in the winter months when the temperature difference between north and south is greatest. Cold air is denser than warm air, so when the difference in temperature is greater, the difference in density is also greater, and the barrier between cold air and warm air is firmer. Think of cold air and warm air like vinegar and oil, which are kept distinct by their different densities.

Source: UK Met Office

Climate change is weakening the jet stream by reducing the difference in temperature between cold, northern air and warm, southern air. As the Earth warms, it’s not warming evenly. The Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the planet, meaning it is growing closer in temperature to more southern latitudes. As a result, the barrier between cold and warm air is growing weaker, and the jet stream is going wobbly.

Instead of forming an even ring around the Arctic, the jet stream is now twisting and contorting, allowing the polar vortex, the mass of cold, dense air over the north pole, to reach its tendrils further south, chilling large parts of the United States and Europe. Think of the jet stream as a fence around the polar vortex. Climate change is letting the polar vortex break out of the fence.

How Climate Change Is Making Winter Colder in the Northeast USThe jet stream (pink), divides cold, Arctic air (blue) from warm air at lower latitudes (orange). Under normal conditions, the jet stream forms a firm barrier around the Arctic a). But as the Earth warms, it’s growing more wobbly (b), allowing cold air to reach further south (c). Source: Fred the Oyster

Just as changes to the jet stream are allowing cold, Arctic air to reach further south, they are also allowing warm equatorial air to reach further north, fueling more unusual weather across the globe, both hot and cold. Last February, for example, the mercury reached 76 degrees F heat in New York City at the same time that it dipped to 35 degrees F in Southern California, all thanks to a squishier, wavier, wobblier jet stream. As the planet warms, the problem is likely to get worse.

Once the polar vortex breaks out of its pen, it takes a while to get it back in. The current spate of unusually cold weather could last several weeks, meteorologists warn, chilling much of the Eastern United States. So bundle up. Winter is going to be around for a while.

This article originally appeared on Nexis Media

About The Author

Jeremy Deaton writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art and culture. You can follow him @deaton_jeremy.

Related Books

InnerSelf Market

Amazon

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

LATEST VIDEOS

The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
by Super User
The climate crisis is forcing thousands around the world to flee as their homes become increasingly uninhabitable.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
by Toby Tyrrell
It took evolution 3 or 4 billion years to produce Homo sapiens. If the climate had completely failed just once in that…
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
by Brice Rea
The end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, was characterised by a final cold phase called the Younger Dryas.…
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
by Frank Wesselingh and Matteo Lattuada
Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a…
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
by Richard Ernst
We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of…
Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…

LATEST ARTICLES

green energy2 3
Four Green Hydrogen Opportunities for the Midwest
by Christian Tae
To avert a climate crisis, the Midwest, like the rest of the country, will need to fully decarbonize its economy by…
ug83qrfw
Major Barrier to Demand Response Needs to End
by John Moore, On Earth
If federal regulators do the right thing, electricity customers across the Midwest may soon be able to earn money while…
trees to plant for climate2
Plant These Trees To Improve City Life
by Mike Williams-Rice
A new study establishes live oaks and American sycamores as champions among 17 “super trees” that will help make cities…
north sea sea bed
Why We Must Understand Seabed Geology To Harness The Winds
by Natasha Barlow, Associate Professor of Quaternary Environmental Change, University of Leeds
For any country blessed with easy access to the shallow and windy North Sea, offshore wind will be key to meeting net…
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
by Bart Johnson, Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Oregon
A wildfire burning in hot, dry mountain forest swept through the Gold Rush town of Greenville, California, on Aug. 4,…
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
by Alvin Lin
At the Leader’s Climate Summit in April, Xi Jinping pledged that China will “strictly control coal-fired power…
Blue water surrounded by dead white grass
Map tracks 30 years of extreme snowmelt across US
by Mikayla Mace-Arizona
A new map of extreme snowmelt events over the last 30 years clarifies the processes that drive rapid melting.
A plane drops red fire retardant on to a forest fire as firefighters parked along a road look up into the orange sky
Model predicts 10-year burst of wildfire, then gradual decline
by Hannah Hickey-U. Washington
A look at the long-term future of wildfires predicts an initial roughly decade-long burst of wildfire activity,…

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.