NOAA: Too Soon To Blame Global Warming For ‘Polar Vortex’
It might be jumping the gun to claim global warming is driving extreme winter weather, according to a new study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Some scientists, along with environmental activists, have argued greenhouse gas-induced warming is reducing the temperature difference between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes, causing the jet stream to become wavier and driving frigid weather into the U.S. and Europe.
The past two winters have seen the East Coast pummeled by snow and harassed by extreme cold. Scientists blamed the “polar vortex” during the harsh winter of 2013-2014 and this past winter’s “Siberian Express” global warming.
Even White House science czar John Holdren made a video trying to explain why winter was so harsh and why it didn’t disprove global warming.
But a new study by NOAA scientists, published in the Journal of Climate, says it’s too early to tell if the last two winters were the product of a warming Arctic. There are potential links, the study found, but more research is needed.
“We are in the pre-consensus stage of a theory that there are links between the rapid warming of the Arctic and some severe weather events since 2007,” NOAA’s James Overland, the study’s lead author, said in a statement.
According to Overland’s study, scientists have not collected enough data to draw a definitive link between a warming Arctic and frigid U.S. winters. There’s less than 10 years of data to draw on, so NOAA says more research and time is needed to make the link.
“We are where other major theories such as plate tectonics and El Niño were before they were accepted,” said Overland, adding that other natural forces like sea surface temperatures and regional weather events play roles in winter climate patterns as well.
Overland’s paper, however, did show “sea-ice loss in the Barents/Kara Seas initiated eastward-propagating wave trains of high and low pressure… resulting in persistent cold spells” over central and eastern Asia.
“Blocking near Greenland related to low-level temperature anomalies led to northerly flow into eastern North America, inducing persistent cold periods,” the study found. “Potential Arctic connections in Europe are less clear.”
The study also noted that “[v]ariability in the North Pacific can reinforce downstream Arctic changes, and Arctic amplification can accentuate the impact of Pacific variability.” NOAA researchers “emphasize multiple linkage mechanisms that are regional, episodic, and based on amplification of existing jet-stream wave patterns, which are the result of a combination of internal variability, lower-tropospheric temperature anomalies, and mid-latitude teleconnections.”
Global warming activists have been trying to link global warming to harsher Arctic weather since 2014’s polar vortex. But so far, the evidence is not definitive enough to show that a warmer Arctic is driving U.S. winter weather.
A study released earlier this year found that “[a]rctic amplification of global warming leads to even less frequent cold outbreaks in Northern Hemisphere winter than a shift toward a warmer mean climate implies by itself.” The opposite claim environmentalists and some scientists are trying to push.
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