During extreme weather, we have a couple of idiomatic greetings to use in place of, “How are you?”. In the winter, there’s, “Is it cold enough for you?” In the summer we have, “Is it hot enough for you?”
This idiom took on a different meaning when it became more closely associated with global climate change. Recently, I came across a YouTube video about one scholar’s concerns about the Northern Hemisphere’s jet stream. https://youtu.be/CKasUm77D0U
Paul Beckwith of University of Ontario’s “Laboratory for Paleo-climatology” showed data about a radical shift in the flow of the jet stream. Beckwith is concerned that the Earth’s climate is becoming chaotic and the new behavior is ongoing. He notes that as the planet’s climate changes in a non-linear fashion that meteorologists are noting shifts in atmospheric and oceanic current patterns. Beckwith believes that, “We must declare a global climate emergency.” Winters will be much warmer.
Because this information came from a YouTube video and the alert was brought to my attention via the Internet, my inate skepticism was triggered and I decided to ask opinions of people I know who have more knowledge about weather and climate than I do.
To refresh your memory, the northern jet stream is the fast flowing “river” of air that moderates weather over North America and Northern Europe.
Climate scientists have noted real changes in the speeds and positions of the jet stream the past decade or so. Satellite images have shown the jet stream is taking a more meandering, longer pathway, which is causing seasonal weather patterns to alter. Many climateologists and meteorologists have said that the resulting change could result in more harsh winters over North America and Europe.
Meantime Beckwith believes the shifting jet stream and its recent cross-eqatorial flow will cause winters to be warmer, not colder. Beckwith posits, in his hypothesis, that the present disproportionate heating of the Arctic region is the cause of the jet stream destabilization. This may cause problems for livestock and agriculture and other aspects of civilization.
My two friends with a background in meteorology were unaware of Paul Beckwith and his work regarding global climate change. I searched the Web for other opinions and discovered some experts who disagreed with Beckwith’s conclusions. They say jet stream shifts between the northern and southern hemispheres are not uncommon. While we should not ignore the current shifts, we shouldn’t jump the gun on declaring any sort of imminent general emergency.
One serious problem that there is no disagreement over, is that the Arctic and Antarctic have warmed recently as a result of melting polar ice caps. This means there is now less of a difference in temperature where the colder air meets warmer air in the warmer latitudes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has noted that the jet stream has indeed weakend during the past two decades. This means the jet stream is meandering “off course” more frequently.
This has shown up as warmer winters in such places as Canada’s Northern Territories, Alaska, and Scandinavia, while more southern areas have had much colder winters. NOAA’s James Overland says that Arctic temperatures have been rising nearly three times faster than the rest of the planet.
When the sea ice melts, the reflectivity of sunlight changes and the water absorbs more heat. In turn, the warmer sea temperatures affect the atmosphere. Regardless of the cause of the shifting jet stream, we can expect severe impacts on climate and weather. What happens up north will change precipitation and temperature patterns. The impact on agriculture will come from new air mass holding patterns that will remain in place for longer time periods.
In other words, some places on Earth will be hotter than usual and other places will be colder. We need to be aware of these changes and be prepared to cope with them. This will be true regardless of one’s political opinions about global climate change.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes naturalist and photographer James Balog. “Climate change is real. Climate change is being substantially increased by humans and the carbon we put into the atmosphere. And it appears to be speeding up. If science has made any mistakes, science has been underestimating it.”