As March begins, it is evident we’ve faced some crazy weather. From snow days to 60 degree spring days, we’ve seen it all. The pictures of the snow-covered Rotunda and blooming daffodils were taken just one week apart in February! And who could forget the biting chill of the Polar Vortex? What do all of these strange weather patterns mean for climate change?
When it comes to talking about climate change, it is important to remember strange weather events don’t necessarily correlate to long term changes in climate. Although a single storm or heat wave cannot be an indicator of climate change, scientists have noticed some changes to the jet stream that could indicate long term climate change. The jet stream is a quick, cool stream of easterly moving air which encompasses the globe. The jet stream is created by the differences in pressure between cold, arctic air and mild, temperate air. When the jet stream dips too far south, the mid-Atlantic is blasted by arctic air. Considering the jet stream is driven by the temperature gradient between the arctic and mid-latitudes, scientists have suggested the warming of the arctic has caused the jet stream to become more fluid. Consequently, there is likely to be an increase in the number of “polar vortex” events we see in the future.
The storms which are caused by changes in the nature of the jet stream are a strong indication of climate change. To gain a better understanding of the polar vortex, you can watch this video by President Obama’s Science Advisor on the January 7, 2014 polar vortex.
Here’s hoping some wonderful weather is headed your way!