A new paper pushes back on the ‘Arctic amplification is making extreme weather’ idea

There has been much worry that extreme weather is the result of changes in the Arctic. For example:  Jennifer Francis, Rutgers University, 25 January 2012.

The “Arctic Paradox” was coined during recent winters when speculations arose that the dramatic changes in the Arctic may be linked to severe snowstorms and cold temperatures in mid-latitudes, particularly along the U.S. east coast and in Europe. Recent studies have illuminated these linkages. Evidence is presented for a physical mechanism connecting Arctic Amplification — the enhanced warming in high northern latitudes relative to the northern hemisphere — with the frequency and intensity of several types of extreme weather events in mid-latitudes, such as droughts, floods, heat waves, and cold spells.

Here is a YouTube video on the issue, the main idea seems to be that changes in the Arctic (supposedly caused by global warming) are changing jet stream patterns in mid-latitudes.

The paper that video is based on is here: http://marine.rutgers.edu/~francis/pres/Francis_Vavrus_2012GL051000_pub.pdf

Now, there’s been a pushback, and “…it is demonstrated that previously reported positive trends are an artifact of the methodology”. Ouch.

Just accepted in GRL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50880/abstract

Revisiting the evidence linking Arctic Amplification to extreme weather in midlatitudes Elizabeth A. Barnes DOI: 10.1002/grl.50880


Previous studies have suggested that Arctic Amplification has caused planetary-scale waves to elongate meridionally and slow-down, resulting in more frequent blocking patterns and extreme weather.

Here, trends in the meridional extent of atmospheric waves over North America and the North Atlantic are investigated in three reanalyses, and it is demonstrated that previously reported positive trends are an artifact of the methodology. No significant decrease in planetary-scale wave phase speeds are found except in OND, but this trend is sensitive to the analysis parameters.

Moreover, the frequency of blocking occurrence exhibits no significant increase in any season in any of the three reanalyses, further supporting the lack of trends in wave speed and meridional extent. This work highlights that observed trends in midlatitude weather patterns are complex and likely not simply understood in terms of Arctic Amplification alone.

UPDATE: Andrew Revkin has a relevant piece today on this issue of attributing climate change to current weather patterns:


Could Climate Campaigners’ Focus on Current Events be Counterproductive?

An analysis of news releases on climate change from large environmental groups finds a big shift in focus. Details here.Stanford Social Innovation Review An analysis of news releases on climate change from large environmental groups finds a big shift in focus. Details here.

This graph is from “Climate Risks: Linking Narratives to Action,” an important new essay in the Stanford Social Innovation Review on the gap between major environmental groups’ messaging on human-driven global warming and the focus of their programs and spending. The message these days has become all about extreme events, from the Frankenstorm to intense droughts, but the programs remain locked mainly on strategies for curbing the flow of greenhouse gases, according to the authors, Amy Luers, Carl Pope and David Kroodsma. Please read the piece.

My main concern in viewing the graph is different.  Read more here


One thing that is certain about the focus on current events -vs- future events, is that current events and the claims about what is driving them can be easily observed, studied, and if need be, falsified, as the new paper from Elizabeth A. Barnes aptly demonstrated about Arctic amplification and current weather patterns.

I think the focus on current events could easily be viewed as counterproductive, since claims about current events are much easier to falsify than future events. If your agenda is to make you fearful of current weather as a manifestation of future warming, it certainly is counterproductive to have such claims falsified in the “here and now” versus in the future where most people have forgotten about them.

I see this as a good thing for climate skepticism. – Anthony

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48 thoughts on “A new paper pushes back on the ‘Arctic amplification is making extreme weather’ idea

  1. How did her work slip through pal review?

    I am shocked, shocked! That science should be going on here.

    Your findings, M’am.

  2. For starters AGW theory said over and over again that due to global man made warming the atmospheric circulation would become more zonal not more meridional.

    Secondly if one looks at the Arctic Oscillation Index especially during the winter months one will see the trend is toward a more negative Arctic Oscillation(go back to year 2009-present) meaning the atmospheric circulation has been becoming more meridional.(greater blocking)

    Thirdly if one goes back in past history and looks at studies of past atmospheric circulation patterns, one will find many studies that show a connection between sustained prolonged low solar activity and a more meridionl atmospheric circulation pattern.

    The up shot of what I am trying to convey is the article is wrong when it tries to suggest the atmospheric circulation has not shown a trend toward a greater blocking pattern in recent years which might very well correspond to very low solar activity and secondly the article is wrong in trying to say AGW Theory called for a more meridional atmospheric circulation pattern, when in reality AGW theory maintained the exact opposite would take place due to global man made warming. They said a greater zonal atmospheric circulation pattern would take place(+AO) not a more meridional atmospheric circulation pattern.

    This article has all of it’s facts wrong in my opinion.

  3. And after all the work the Met office went to to spin that tale. Why even Huff ‘n Puff picked up the story.

    Climate Change ‘Causing Colder British Winters’ Says Met Office Chief Scientist

    The chief scientist at the Met Office has called an urgent meeting to discuss the effects of climate change, saying the melting of the arctic may be causing the UK’s recent spate of perishing weather.

    After a winter in which temperatures dropped as low as −15.6C, Dr Julia Slingo told ITV News global warming may be responsible for the extreme weather, saying she would be convening with top scientists to try and understand how the arctic melt was affecting the UK.

    She told the broadcaster: “If this is how climate change could manifest itself, then we need to understand that as a matter of urgency

    “We are beginning to think that our climate is being disrupted by the warming of the artic that we’ve observed very dramatically since 2007.

    “It definitely seems like the warming of the arctic is “loading the dice” over cold dry winters.” ….

    But that is OK, the paper will sink into obscurity just like everything else that does not support ‘The Cause’

  4. 2005 0.356 -1.271 -1.348 -0.046 -0.763 -0.383 -0.030 0.026 0.802 0.030 0.228 -2.104
    2006 -0.170 -0.156 -1.604 0.138 0.156 1.071 0.103 -0.265 0.606 -1.029 0.521 2.282
    2007 2.034 -1.307 1.182 0.544 0.894 -0.555 -0.397 -0.034 0.179 0.383 -0.519 0.821
    2008 0.819 0.938 0.586 -0.455 -1.205 -0.090 -0.480 -0.080 -0.327 1.676 0.092 0.648
    2009 0.800 -0.672 0.121 0.973 1.194 -1.351 -1.356 -0.054 0.875 -1.540 0.459 -3.413
    2010 -2.587 -4.266 -0.432 -0.275 -0.919 -0.013 0.435 -0.117 -0.865 -0.467 -0.376 -2.631
    2011 -1.683 1.575 1.424 2.275 -0.035 -0.858 -0.472 -1.063 0.665 0.800 1.459 2.221
    2012 -0.220 -0.036 1.037 -0.035 0.168 -0.672 0.168 0.014 0.772 -1.514 -0.111 -1.749
    2013 -0.610 -1.007 -3.185 0.322 0.494 0.549 -0.011

  5. The video is worthless,and in complete contradiction of what AGW theory calls for which is a more zonal atmospheric circulation, less blocking.

    NO the article has no effect on the research that shows low UV light and blocking are linked.

    That research is alive and well, and if anything has been proven once again to be correct if one looks at the solar activity versus blocking from 2009-present. Once again very low prolonged solar activity seems to be associated with blocking.

  6. The Met Office has become a joke. One of the first lessons you have to learn when trying to understand, diagnose or design a complex systems is the old adage: “You can’t see the forest for the trees”. Or, as so succinctly put by that old cartoon hanging in many an engineer’s office: “When you are up to your ass in alligators, it is hard to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.” Any competent engineer (or researcher) soon learns that after digging yourselves down one hole for a while, you had better climb out and look around real good before starting the next hole. If you haven’t learned that lesson, you soon become totally ineffective and a joke to any that has.

  7. “An artifact of the methodology.” Now that is serious skepticism. Kudos to Dr. Elizabeth A. Barnes.

  8. I thought that jet stream patterns were known to be different in the two PDO phases. Not that anyone has figured out the PDO.

  9. Salvatore Del Prete (August 20, 2013 at 12:12 pm)

    You are absolutely correct that climate science consensus was always for less blocking (more zonal flow) based on an increase in the temperature contrast at the tropopause in the vicinity of the polar jet. You are also correct in noting that there has been more blocking instead of less blocking.

    Blocking has reversed from a decrease in the 80’s and 90’s to an increase more recently. To me and most people who study weather, that is indicative of natural variations. Those variations could be related to the secular decrease in solar activity as you suggest.

    However the article above does not contradict any of those ideas. It points out that science is now pushing back against the rather opportunistic attribution of blocking to “low sea ice” or something like that. The notion (not even a theory) that surface temperature gradient decreases are somehow propagating to the tropopause demonstrates an ignorance of weather. It is this new paper “pushing back” against that failed meme that is encouraging and leads science back to the understanding that the observed trends in blocking are natural.

  10. Once again, no matter who is talking or the direction they are going in (IE “We will all die of heat/cold due to humans!”), there is not enough energy in the puny, tiny, insty, bitsy pokadot bikini amount of added anthropogenic CO2 molecues to what was already there in the atmosphere to push and shove the mighty jet stream around!!!!! They are asking me to believe that a gnat can push the elephant around in the room!


  11. 30 seconds into the video she says “back in the good ole days we could look down on the arctic and see a nice healthy ice cover”. (I couldn’t go any further.)

    What makes ice cover “healthy” and why would no ice cover be unhealthy? Why is the current (or pre-industrial) state assumed to be the optimum? Why do some “scientists” not seem to grasp geologic time scales? Not to mention the lack of acknowledgement that change drives evolution?

  12. Stephen, your model is a top-down model of jet maneuvering by external sources and I say to you exactly what I say to AGWers. The catalysts you and they propose (solar versus anthropogenic CO2) do not have enough energy to do what you say they can do.

  13. Looking at the video 16 mins in the two charts clearly show lower zonal wind speeds in the mid 20th century cooling period and even lower such winds now with higher zonal wind speeds in the late 20th century warming period.

    AGW theory requires more zonality and so does not explain either of the periods of lower speeds.

    The match with changes in solar activity is far better.

    However, she somehow seems to be arguing the opposite.

    I’ll leave it to others to have a look and comment appropriately.

  14. She appears to give no weight to the fact that for 20 years increased zonality accompanied decreasing Arctic ice loss and it is only since around 2000 that zonality decreased in correlation with the less active sun whilst Arctic sea ice loss actually slowed down despite the troughs in 2007 and 2012 both of which were about ten years after El Nino events.

    She makes no attempt to explain why Arctic sea ice loss did not lead to increasing meridionality from 1980 to 2000.

  15. Pamela.

    All one needs to push the jets around from above is a change in stratosphere temperatures.

    We can clearly observe such temperature changes in the stratosphere over time and since the temperature inversion in the stratosphere is created entirely by solar shortwave reacting directly with ozone it must follow that changes in ozone amounts have the required effect on the atmospheric circulation below the tropopause.

  16. HH Lamb found exactly the same meridional patterns when the Arctic was getting colder in the 1960’s

    changes over middle latitudes, where the most significant feature has been the very awkward type of variability from year to year, associated with the behaviour of blocking systems and meridional circulation patterns.” which led to “the extremes of cold and warmth, drought and flood associated with the occurrences of blocking in middle latitudes.”

    And he also identified the cause

    The slight drop in temperature produces large numbers of pressure centres in the upper atmosphere. These break up the smooth flow of westerly winds over temperate areas.The stagnant air produced in this way causes an increase in extremes of local weather such as droughts, floods, extended dry spells, long freezes, delayed monsoons and even local temperature increases.


  17. Pamela Gray says:
    August 20, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Stephen, your model is a top-down model of jet maneuvering by external sources and I say to you exactly what I say to AGWers. The catalysts you and they propose (solar versus anthropogenic CO2) do not have enough energy to do what you say they can do.

    A large amount of energy is not required to alter a chaotic system – just the right amount of energy or interference in the right place _and_ at the right time. The so called ‘butterfly effect’. Of course if several ‘butterflies’ match cadence for a brief period at just the right time the system may even move to another attractor.

  18. It couldn’t just be weather, surely? Due to surface cooling since 2002?

    This whole mess gets more ridiculous every week.

  19. First, the Arctic. Both authors have the delusion that Arctic warming somehow is tied in with global warming that is part of their belief system. This leads to incredibly bad scholarship because nothing could be further from the the truth. They don’t even know that Arctic warming [1] started suddenly at the turn of the twentieth century, after two thousand years of slow, linear cooling. Laws of physics rule out greenhouse warming under these circumstances. Nor do they know that it paused for thirty years in the middle of the century, then resumed in 1970, and is still going strong.This was not simply a pause but cooling at the rate of 0.3 degrees Celsius per decade. Probable cause of the warming is a rearrangement of the North Atlantic current system at the turn of the century that started to bring warm Gulf Stream water into the Arctic Ocean. The mid-century pause correlates with a temporary return of the previous flow pattern of currents. The warming has nothing to do with any fancied atmospheric phenomena as the second author correctly points out. Nor has it any connection with Arctic amplification that was proven nonexistent by Polyakov et al. Thanks to the warm currents the Arctic is the only part of the world that is still warming. The rest of the world is going through a warming “pause” or “hiatus” that has lasted fifteen years by now. There is more carbon dioxide in the air now than ever before but it is unable to bring forth that greenhouse warming, alleged to be the cause of anthropogenic global warming. Ferenc Miskolczi has proved that it simply does not exist and the “pause” is not a pause but permanent absence of AGW.

    I did read Andrew Revkin’s piece and came away with the impression that his concern is with the effectiveness of warmist propaganda disseminated by foundations. They used to lay emphasis on long-term disaster predictions but they have switched to warning us about current dangers, i.e. extreme events. He is not a stupid man but propaganda is propaganda, no matter how you slice it, and he is wasting his time with it.

    [1] Arno Arrak E&E 22(8):269-283 (2011)

  20. And at the very end of the summary

    Increased probability of extremes…cold spells, heat waves, flooding, prolonged snowfall and drought.

    Well, one of them could be correct !. What an embarrassing,non-specific way to end a dissertation.

  21. I think Steven Wilde is on the right track about the jet stream but I.” like almost everybody else” – don’t know exactly why. The jet stream pattern definitely caused the weather over the SE this year to set many record rainfalls and some new low temps for the summer period. The Jetstream had many loops well below the latitude that is normal for the SE US. I really can’t back this up by reference ,only by memory of local and national weather maps and jet stream depiction.

  22. As we move into winter its a zonal jet rather then a waving jet that takes my interest.
    This summer the jet has been a little more zonal and splitting in parts. As we move into the winter a zonal jet that moves south allows large highs with a long east to west span to settle around the Arctic circle. This type of weather patterns can bring cold weather over to large areas of the NH. As they just become large pools of cold air with the risk of heavy snow around their edges as weather fronts run into this cold air.

  23. Well, Jai Mitchell, you and your mentor have dug yourselves into a hole here. Ditto similar proponents for Antarctica…. Please study some physics, at least until you understand how energy flows. BK

  24. Just got out of digging my last hole and I am starting to look around.

    Wilson, I.R.G., Long-Term Lunar Atmospheric Tides in the
    Southern Hemisphere, The Open Atmospheric Science Journal,
    2013, 7, 51-76


    Wilson, I.R.G., 2013, Are Global Mean Temperatures
    Significantly Affected by Long-Term Lunar Atmospheric
    Tides? Energy & Environment, Vol 24,
    No. 3 & 4, pp. 497 – 508


  25. jackmorrow says: @ August 20, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    …. The Jetstream had many loops well below the latitude that is normal for the SE US. I really can’t back this up by reference ,only by memory of local and national weather maps and jet stream depiction.
    Jack, this may help


  26. Please look at where the lines for future emphasis current emphasis cross in the graph above, then please look at Jo Nova’s detailed article today regarding the significance of July 29, 2011 in the CAGW’s propaganda initiative.

  27. [blockquote] chris y says:
    August 20, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Steven Goddard dug up a great reference on this from the early 1970′s.


    “During the 1970s, deep jet stream dips were blamed on global cooling.
    Scientists are much smarter now, and blame jet stream dips on global warming.”

    And so it goes.

    We have ourselves a Chicken or the Egg conundrum..

    Then again maybe not….

    Why is it that everyone rules out the suns change in energy placed into the earths systems as not a cause? Its the sun stupid..

    In each change it was the energy input which changed first then the dips began…

  28. Want to point out that reduced solar activity overall (even weak maxs like the coming) effect the Earth’s Hadley Cell circulation on either hemisphere, which drives storm activity equatorwards. A detailed discussion on this is derived in my latest book (Grand Phases On The Sun) by paleoclimatologist Bas van Geel, a “wiggle-matching” expert in C14 analysis. He’s traced the weak sun-to-C14 in peat bogs across several cooling epochs in isotopic proxy data, and reconstructed the human history around these.(the 850 BC periods etc.)

  29. Jennifer Francis’ paper has become the latest golden child for the global warming proponents. Given the pause and the failure of the models and the other stats showing extreme weather is the same or has decreased, the Arctic ice reduction and Francis’ proposition that it leads to more weather extremes has been their sole island of personal belief system reinforcement.

    So much for that.

  30. My take on the Revkin piece is: this is his effort to support the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming meme by a re-focus of public attention on the distant future. With eyes searching the horizon, this allows the current Global Surface Temperature pause in which we are currently standing, to be ignored and discounted. The reality of the here and now takes a back seat to the potentials of what might be. “Nothing to see here folks, just move along.”

  31. Bill Illis says:
    August 20, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Jennifer Francis’ paper has become the latest golden child for the global warming proponents. Given the pause and the failure of the models and the other stats showing extreme weather is the same or has decreased, the Arctic ice reduction and Francis’ proposition that it leads to more weather extremes has been their sole island of personal belief system reinforcement.

    A question then.

    We know absolutely that Arctic Ice has been declining the past 15-20 years. No arguments, no contradictory info. We just can’t point to any measured temperature in the air or sea where the sea ice IS to cause that much melting.

    For example, the DMI daily temperature for the Arctic at 80 north latitude – where the sea ice actually is (used to be!) has been steady or declining since 1958.

    So, regardless of WHY it is declining, we do know about how much “new” arctic ocean water uis exposed for each of the months that the series of declines has happened, right?

    So how much “extra” long wave radiation and how much “extra” energy of evaporation do those millions of exposed km’s of open ocean represent in the planet’s heat balance?

    Is the extra heat lost from evaporation (where the heat can re-radiate from the atmosphere) and long wave radiation losses (where the heat goes directly back to space) enough to have balanced the temperature rise CAGW theory says we “should” have seen from the global warming gasses?

  32. This year the Northwest Passage, for example, will remain closed (touch and go perhaps). Going by the history of human occupation sites and the spread of bowhead whales, this area has been mostly open in the summer from about 9,000 years ago (and perhaps mostly closed in the Little Ice Age period).

    The NW Passage is a good proxy for the rest of Arctic basin. The sea ice has been similar to today for most of this interglacial since the major ice-sheets melted back 9,000 years ago. I don’t buy the argument that it is so much less than it used to be.

    Humans and the boats they used, and the bowhead whale fossils, which being a mammal and need open water to breathe, are 1,000 times better evidence of the historic conditions than any theory and any climate model.

    Its more-or-less the same right now as it has been throughout the interglacial. Maybe some glaciers continued melting on Ellesmere Island or Northern/Southern Greenland, but the rest of the change is marginal.

  33. Little OT but I’m thinking some pretty good rains are eventually coming to the west coast and California courtesy of Sakaurajima. That’s what happened after Kirishima, Shinmoedake a couple years ago.

  34. Since weather and climate extremes are and have been trending strongly downward, it seems clear that the alarmists have bet everything on the wrong horse.

  35. PS: The reason Anthony’s link didn’t activate is that the “space” before the “http” wasn’t a true space character. All that needs to be done is delete it and type in a space.

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