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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Explaining the New Normal
In A World Of Climate Change
Negative Arctic Oscillation conditions are associated with higher pressure in the Arctic and a weakened polar vortex (yellow arrows). A weakened jet stream (black arrows) is characterized by larger-amplitude meanders in its trajectory and a reduction in the wave speed of those meanders

It’s time to end the display of shock and naïveté by local weather and news people reporting on the record highs and lows of temperature and precipitation. Since Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, we’ve seen literally hundreds of extreme weather events all over the world, to mention a few, repeated extreme rain events with flooding in the UK alone, floods in India, Alberta and Toronto Canada, Superstorm Haiyan in the Philippines, snowstorms in Jerusalem, Cairo, even in New Orleans. The terrible droughts, the heat waves, and the resulting fires in the Western US, Australia, and South America.

Unless you and your loved ones were personally affected by the weather, it may not always be in the forefront, and though you’ve heard about each of these major incidents in the news, each one just seems like one more disaster, and rarely are you reminded of any connections. But put them all together, and you’ve got colossal destruction, causing governments, insurance and reinsurance companies, and even major corporations, like Coca-Cola and Nike, to take notice. At this point, extreme weather has become so commonplace, it rings hollow for weather and news people to act surprised. The American and International public deserves more than shock and empathy, and the occasional catch phrase like Polar Vortex and Heat Wave. They deserve an explanation, one that they can understand about the mechanics of what’s going on.

We believe we gained such an understanding when we first saw the lead video in this post, and now we feel compelled to share this understanding with our readers.

In doing so, we’d like to encourage the weather and news people to project less shock, and more of an “I told you so” attitude, in a proactive attempt to change the public consciousness to one of recognition of our collective fate for inaction on this paramount issue of Climate Change (Sea Level Rise, and increasingly untenable climate-weather-disasters). I believe my mentors, in this age of internet accessibility, the prominent climate scientists, Michael Mann (IPCC contributor – NYT Op-ed) James Hansen (retired head of NASA GISS, who has gotten himself arrested protesting the KXL pipeline, which he calls “Game over for the climate”), Peter Sinclair, the force behind the Climate Denial Crock of the Week and these Yale forum videos), Jennifer Francis (Rutgers University), Jeff Masters (Weather Underground), Ben Strauss (Climate Central), and Paul Beckwith (University of Ottawa), and numerous other prominent people around the globe, would all join me in this recommendation.

We invite you to hear about the Jet Stream and its recent changes directly from the climate science experts, but before you watch the videos, perhaps you’d benefit from some background information, and from our, perhaps oversimplified, interpretation. This way, when you hear it directly, you’ll gain an even deeper understanding on this subject.

(To simplify, we are limiting our scope to the Arctic and the Northern Hemisphere, although many of the same principles and phenomena described apply to the Polar Jet Stream around Antarctica and to the Southern Hemisphere, as well.)

This all has to do with the Polar Jet Stream, a river of air flowing West to East, (typically about 6 miles high in the mid- latitudes) at about 100 to 200 miles per hour through the Troposphere, the bottom layer of our atmosphere, with 80% of its mass and 99% of its moisture, where all of our weather occurs. The weaker Subtropical Jet Stream also flows West to East, South of the Polar Jet Stream and higher in altitude (approximately 8 miles high) up closer to the Tropopause, the layer below the Stratosphere. Anyone who has ever been an air traveler knows the Jet Stream to be in play in cross-country flight, and that flights are as much as an hour longer flying West

Well, for the last two years the pattern of the Jet Stream has changed. Instead of a circular or oval pattern around the North Pole at about the Canadian-US border, the jet stream has slowed down, and has become very wobbly and erratic, and much of the flow has become North to South or South to North, still bearing in mind that the river of air is flowing around the world West to East. Take a look at the illustration at the top of this post and you’ll instantly understand what we’ve just described.

There are theories as to why the Polar Jet Stream has slowed and has become more erratic, focusing on the Arctic, which has been warming (melting the sea ice) at a much higher rate than the rest of the globe. This is reducing the temperature difference between the North Pole and the Equator, and so is affecting the temperature and pressure gradients, which factor into wind speeds. All this is quite complex to the non-scientist. But quite simply, this change in the flow of the Jet Stream is accountable for much of the weird weather we’ve been experiencing.

To the North of the Polar Jet Stream, there has always been cold Arctic air, and to the South there has always been warmer Subtropical air. This has not changed, but the pattern has, so the North to South and South to North directional flows of the Jet Stream explain how it can be warmer in Anchorage, Alaska than in Atlanta Georgia. If the pattern of the Jet Stream puts it North of Anchorage, but south of Atlanta, this all makes logical sense. Whereas before two years ago, this type of phenomenon did happen, now it seems to be happening non-stop.

The other factor is that once a pattern is established, it gets stuck and tends not to change. This is the cause of the prolonged cold spell we experienced in January 2014 in the Midwest, the South, and the Northeast US, while Alaska and the West Coast were warmer and drier than usual. The pattern of the Jet Stream remained fairly constant, and though the river of air still flowed through the pattern West to East the pattern itself didn’t change West to East, or much at all.

This has become the status quo because of the blocking patterns created by the flow of the Jet Stream. Weather patterns, including clockwise fair weather high-pressure systems and counterclockwise bad weather low-pressure systems, form blocking patterns, as they get caught up and stuck in the peaks and troughs of the wavy Jet Stream, hindering change in the shape and location of the pattern. For an example, in January 2014, the Jet Stream flowed North through the Atlantic Ocean and peaked North of Greenland, causing a clockwise fair weather blocking pattern over Greenland, very similar to the blocking pattern over Greenland that blocked the flow of Superstorm Sandy in October, 2012.

Add to this what you already know about the warming of our oceans, and the consequent increased moisture in the air, so that with the bad weather low-pressure systems, when it rains, it pours. And we are witnessing intense months worth of rain events happening in a very few hours, a phenomenon that keeps happening all over the world. Equally bad is the weather we’ve been experiencing in the Western part of the U.S., and in many other parts of the world, with severe drought conditions that persist or worsen and the resulting increased threat of fires.

One more factor that could be affecting our weather is the flow of ocean currents around the world, which are very interactive with the wind currents. The Loop Current around the Gulf and the Gulf Stream have recently weakened. The warm Gulf Stream that has always moderated the temperatures in the UK and Europe, and due to the scientifically documented slowdown in this current, if it progresses, it could eventually make the weather in Paris and London more like Moscow. If Heaven forbid, this weakening of the Gulf Stream has anything to do with the Gulf Oil Spill of 2010 and the hundreds of other oil spills, which might be hindering the flow of ocean currents (though we have no proof of oil causing this slowdown), this could also have a major effect on our weather, and we must re-examine deep water drilling and ocean transport of oil, as well the abundance of used oil that is washed by the rains every day off the streets and into our oceans.

Fossil Fuels are at the root of the problem. The planet is warming each year to the tune of megatons per year of energy in solar radiation being trapped by a blanket of CO2, methane and other greenhouse gases. The level of CO2 that many scientists had set the maximum safe level to be 350 ppm (parts per million), has now exceeded 400 ppm. The level of methane, which, in short term greenhouse effect, is as much as 100 times worse than CO2, is increasing from the leaky extraction and distribution systems, as well as, just as significantly, leaking from a warming planet. And the power generation plants and refineries and compressor stations and pipelines, and accidents with pipelines and oil trains, gas flaring from every one of the thousands of fracked oil wells, and carbon emissions from agribusiness and from forest fires are literally pouring carbon into the atmosphere at record levels, and planned in every case, including coal, only to increase.

We are proceeding like drunken alcoholics addicted to Fossil Fuels, driving full speed into a brick wall. Don’t be, or act, shocked, when we are faced with negative outcomes in our weather, and our local weather and news people shouldn’t continue the charade either. As professional weather and news people, they should certainly know better than that, and they should reflect their knowledge in their reporting. If we have any hope of averting, or at least delaying, disaster, so that our children and future generations may enjoy what we have enjoyed in a habitable world, we have to take drastic measures soon to affect real change in energy sources, reducing our reliance on Fossil Fuels.

But the problem is corporate control and politics. And internationally, no country wants to take the lead on carbon reduction. The developing countries, including China and India, won’t even agree on a limit for their emissions, which, like runaway trains, are increasing year after year. The annual UN Climate Talks held most recently in Warsaw, Poland, and the year before in Doha, Qatar, in our estimation have never effectively made any real progress, and it’s as unlikely that they ever will, as the Republicans and the Democrats in the current U.S. Congress ever getting together and getting anything accomplished.

But, according to the dreams of Woodstock Earth, we imagine the possibility of the people of the world, as Brothers and Sisters, realizing how Mother Earth is reacting to the onslaught, and perhaps after experiencing the battering of Her weather, and Her wrath, with the realization that if we don’t act, we all face destruction, forging ahead to a brave new world without Fossil Fuels, and with the hope of a future.

Courtesy of

Message to our Readers
That last paragraph may have sounded “hippyish” and unrealistic. Certainly it was idealistic, but I didn’t want to end the story with a note of despair. There’s always hope, however unrealistic, and I’ve always believed that doing something is better than doing nothing, so I always try to encourage it. Who knows? If enough of us are on to something, it just might work.

The only reason I was able to keep this post so short is that I felt that it was a continuation of one of our most personal and important stories, Superstorm Sandy, published January 5, 2013, and much of what we wanted to say about Global Warming and Climate Change Denial has already been said, so we’d love you to read it, or at least, to watch the James Hansen lecture video at the end.

The lead video to this story is entitled, Climate, Ice, and Weather Whiplash, in the “This Is Not Cool” with Peter Sinclair series produced by the Yale forum on Climate Change and the Media. We found this video in Sinclair’s Climate Denial Crock of the Week blog, dated June 3, 2013. It clearly tells the story.

The second video is by climate scientist Dr. Jennifer Francis, who also appeared in the first video, going into further depth on the subject of the Jet Stream. You, as non-scientists, might find some of this stuff a bit unintelligible, but some of you might enjoy the science..

For the third video we found another more recent “This Is Not Cool” with Peter Sinclair video, entitled Climate, Jet Stream, and Polar Vortex, in his Climate Denial Crock of the Week blog, dated January 7, 2014.This one doesn’t go into as much depth on the mechanics of the Jet Stream, but it covers lots of ground with some of our most prominent climate scientists, and relates very well to this story.

Fourth, we have a beautifully produced vimeo by a nonprofit organization, Our Children’s Trust, called, The Climate of Change. This group is preparing to sue governments for not protecting our air and water for young people and our future generations, for betraying their trust.

In preparation for the Trust Campaign, retired climate scientist James Hansen, with colleagues, published a new scientific paper on December 3, 2013, entitled, Assessing "Dangerous Climate Change": Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People,Future Generations and Nature (PDF). This paper was designed to be used in lawsuits against the State and Federal governments and foreign governments for neglecting the health of our children with runaway extraction of fossil fuels, and its effects on our climate. In Hansen’s words, “We dispute the common assumption that the world necessarily is going to develop all fossil fuels that can be found, thus making large global warming inevitable. Humanity does not need to be a bunch of lemmings headed over a cliff.” “The paper draws attention to the moral and ethical issues caused by the inertia of the climate system, which causes most of the impacts of climate change to be felt by young people and future generations, as a consequence of action or inaction of the current generation.”

And please don’t miss renowned climate scientist Michael Mann’s article in the Sunday Review Section of the New York Times, January 17, 2014, entitled, If You See Something, Say Something. His article inspired this one.

We thank our readers in Germany, the UK, Russia, Canada, and France (our biggest audience outside the US), and we thank all of our US and international readers (from over 80 nations). We really appreciate you taking the time to read our articles. And we extra-appreciate when you refer them to friends. We love getting feedback from our readers. Our email address is, or if you prefer Twitter, you can use @Mikethemikeman1.

For the sake of our people, our families, and Mother Earth, we encourage all of you, as charter members of Woodstock Earth, to spread the word and help get these stories out.

Climate, Ice, and Weather Whiplash

Jennifer Francis -
 Understanding the Jet Stream

Climate, Jet Stream, and Polar Vortex

Climate of Trust - Children’s Trust

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