Saturday, February 15, 2014

CNN Discovers Rossby Waves

It's encouraging to see a decent journalistic treatment of how the polar jet stream is whipsawing the northern hemisphere, especially when it's from CNN.   The story links the California drought, eastern North America's snowstorms, Britain's floods and Sochi's winter heat wave to the 'long wave' or Rossby wave phenomenon.

That “long-wave pattern” is like a whip that got swung in California and has cracked in all the other places.

A big, sturdy ridge of high pressure air has blustered rain clouds away from California, and at the same time, it has pushed the jet-stream way up into Canada.

What goes up…

In reaction to that, the jet-stream has swung back deeper into the South than usual, carrying Canadian cold with it.

Voila. Snow and ice from Louisiana to the Carolinas.

Then it has whipped back up, helping big storms dump snow over the Northeast.

From there, the same jet-stream has crossed the Atlantic and brought weather that flooded Great Britain in the wettest January there in two and a half centuries.

Down the road a bit, at the Winter Olympics, it’s practically springtime in Sochi, and it’s that same jet-stream dragging in warmth that’s boosting temperatures well above freezing.

But it gets even worse.

The jet-stream is moving slower than in past years, which means that all that ugly weather is hovering over places for longer periods, plaguing them with more of its nastiness than usual.

It has weather-beaten people in many parts of the world groaning the same moan: “I’ve never seen weather like this before.”

Unfortunately our nations and our economies are designed for a climate state that once was.   Our climate has now entered the realm of Carl-Gustav Rossby & company.  We are going to have to learn to adapt with severe weather events of increasing frequency and intensity that overstay their welcome as happened last year in Calgary.  Adaptation begins by recognizing that our core infrastructure wasn't designed for this new climate reality and must be reinforced where we can and replaced where we can't.  In Canada alone, the cost for infrastructure upgrading is estimated at upwards of a trillion dollars.  What we need to accept is that the price tag won't be getting any smaller the longer we delay.

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