When Does A Displaced Polar Vortex Become A Split Vortex?

NOAA – National Weather Service – Climate Prediction Center – Click the pic to view at source

By WUWT Regular “Just The Facts”

As discussed last week, the Northern Stratospheric Polar Vortex appears to have been displaced in January and now it appears to be splitting into two discrete lobes, i.e. see the image above with two areas of blue / cold air descending within the funnels/lobes of the Polar Vortex at 10 hPa/mb – 31 km – 102K feet. What follows is succinct summary of Polar Vorticity, followed by various current observations. If you aren’t familiar with Stratospheric Polar Vortexes, you can get acquainted here, here and here.

Planetary Vorticity is “generated by the rotating earth”, it “is zero at equator”, is at it’s “maximum at pole (one revolution per day)” and “is always positive (cyclonic [counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere])”, Lyndon State College Atmospheric Sciences i.e.:

Lyndon State College Atmospheric Sciences – Click the pic to view at source

Polar Vortices are “caused when an area of low pressure sits at the rotation pole of a planet. This causes air to spiral down from higher in the atmosphere, like water going down a drain.” Universe Today

“The polar vortex extends from the tropopause (the dividing line between the stratosphere and troposphere) through the stratosphere and into the mesosphere (above 50 km). Low values of ozone and cold temperatures are associated with the air inside the vortex.” NASA

PhysicalGeography.net – Click the pic to view at source

Below is Northern Hemisphere Area Where Temperature is Below 195K or -78C, and it shows very cold air within the Polar Vortex descended from 10 hPa/mb –  31 km – 102K feet down to 250 hPa/mb – 10 km – 34K feet, twice during January, 2014.

NOAA – National Weather Service – Climate Prediction Center – Click the pic to view at source

“During extreme variability of the Arctic polar vortex termed a “weak vortex event,” anomalies can descend from the upper stratosphere to the surface on time scales of weeks. Subsequently the outbreak of cold-air events have been noted in high northern latitudes, as well as a quadrupole pattern in surface temperature over the Atlantic and western European sectors, but it is currently not understood why certain events descend to the surface while others do not.” “The subdivision of such events into vortex displacements and vortex splits has important implications for tropospheric weather patterns on weekly to monthly time scales.” “Using reanalysis data it is found that vortex splitting events are correlated with surface weather and lead to positive temperature anomalies over eastern North America of more than 1.5 K, and negative anomalies over Eurasia of up to −3 K. The corresponding signals are weaker during displacement events, although ultimately they are shown to be related to cold-air outbreaks over North America.”  Mitchell et al. 2012 – Paywalled

Onto the observations. If you look at the following 4 National Weather Service – Climate Prediction Center Northern Hemisphere Temperature Analyses at 10 hPa/mb –  31 km – 102K feet showing the cold Northern Stratospheric Polar Vortex on January 7th and 11th, and February 7th and 8th, 2014 you can see the progression as the Polar Vortex was first displaced/squeezed and now spliting into two lobes:

Above you can also see an area of high pressure and warm air building between the lobes of the vortex. Polar Wind at 10 hPa/mb –  31 km – 102K feet clearly shows the two lobes of the Northern Stratospheric Polar Vortex spinning counter-clockwise (Click the Pic to Animate):

Cameron Beccario – Global Forecast System – NCEP / National Weather Service / NOAA – Click the pic to view animated at source

Also interesting is that Ozone Mixing Ratios at 10 hPa/mb –  31 km – 102K feet show the “Ozone Hole” within the Polar Vortex splitting:

The two lobes of the Polar Vortex aren’t just visible at 10 hPa/mb –  31 km – 102K feet, the funnels of the vortex also extend both up and down, as you can see in the following National Weather Service – Climate Prediction Center Height Analysis, which starts at 1 hPa/mb – 50 km – 164K feet and extends down to 100 hPa/mb – 15 km – 49K feet. The Vortex appears to split into two lobes/funnels at about 5 hPa – 35 km – 115K feet:

For those unfamiliar with the variation of pressure with height, this graphic may prove helpful:

Nordian Aviation Training Systems – Click the pic to view at source

So what is the result of this Polar Vortex behavior? “Large regions in northern Asia, Europe and North America have been found to cool during the mature and late stages of weak vortex events in the stratosphere. A substantial part of the temperature changes are associated with changes in the Northern Annular Mode (NAM) and North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) pressure patterns in the troposphere.” Kolstad et al. 2010

Here is Northern Hemisphere – Vertical Cross Section of Geopotential Height Anomalies and the Northern Annular Mode (NAM) or Arctic Oscillation (AO) Index, which shows large positive Height Anomalies and the AO swinging negative in January and early February:

NOAA – National Weather Service – Climate Prediction Center – Click the pic to view at source

And here is North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) Index for the prior 4 Months, showing a positive swing in mid-January and remaining there until present:

NOAA – National Weather Service – Climate Prediction Center – Click the pic to view at source

Lastly, the causes of this year’s weak vortex events were discussed in depth last week on this thread, however two key drivers of recent Polar Vortex behavior appear to be Eddy Heat and Planetary Waves. In terms of Eddy Heat, i.e. “strong negative fluxes indicate poleward flux of heat via eddies. Multiple strong poleward episodes will result in a smaller polar vortex, Sudden Stratospheric Warmings and an earlier transition from winter to summer circulations. Relatively small flux amplitudes will result in a more stable polar vortex and will extend the winter circulation well into the Spring.” NOAA

Here you can see that 10 day Averaged Eddy Heat Flux Towards The North Pole At 100mb is near a record daily maximum as it was in early January when the earlier weak vortex event began:

NOAA – National Weather Service – Climate Prediction Center – Click the pic to view at source

In terms of Planetary Waves “a vortex displacement event is associated with anomalously high wave number-1 planetary wave activity entering the stratosphere and is characterized by a vortex with a comma-like shape that is shifting equatorward. Often this shifting occurs ‘‘top down’’ and the vortex has a baroclinic structure. Subsequently the Aleutian high, a weak anti- cyclone, encroaches over the pole and is especially dominant at lower levels.”

“A vortex splitting event is associated with anomalously high wavenumber-2 planetary wave activity entering the stratosphere. During such an event the vortex barotropically splits into two ‘‘daughter’’ vortices that tend to align along the 90°E – 90°W axis, with one centered over Siberia and the other centered over northeastern Canada (Matthewman et al. 2009, hereafter M09).” Mitchell et al. 2011

Planetary Wave 1 activity can be see on this Zonal Wave #1 Amplitude Jan, Feb, March Time Series showing strong Wave 1 activity in January;

Mitchell et al. 2011 – Climate Prediction Center – Click the pic to view at source

but in February we are seeing more Planetary Wave 2 activity:

Mitchell et al. 2011 – Climate Prediction Center – Click the pic to view at source

So if the Northern Stratospheric Polar Vortex splits and does not break up, and if  Mitchell et al. 2012 are correct, we should begin see “positive temperature anomalies over eastern North America of more than 1.5 K” and “negative anomalies over Eurasia of up to −3 K” in the coming weeks. We shall see.

For an array of real time Northern Stratospheric Polar Vortex graphs and graphics please visit the WUWT Northern Polar Vortex Reference Page.

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J Martin

Coincidental that both vortices are located in the vicinity of the two magnetic North poles ?

David

The article contains numerous references to “31 km – 102K miles”. Pretty sure you mean 102K feet.

M Courtney

So much information. It is a valuable record and a link to valuable sources but…
I can’t see any hints at any new understandings because this is so complex. There are so many possible relationships. E.g.

Also interesting is that Ozone Mixing Ratios at 10 hPa/mb – 31 km – 102K miles show the “Ozone Hole” within the Polar Vortex splitting.

Why just ozone?
What about NO2, NO3 or alkanes – like methane?
So many variables.
They are beyond my feeble intellect; I cannot determine the significance of these facts.
Please, commenters, offer me guidance.

M Courtney

And I can’t sort out closing blockquotes….

Mark Nodine

I think you mean 102K feet, not 102K miles throughout

John A

Polar Vortices are “caused when an area of low pressure sits at the rotation pole of a planet. This causes air to spiral down from higher in the atmosphere, like water going down a drain.”

Erm no it’s not. I think you’d call it ‘anticyclonic’ if air falls like that

The “Vortex” used to be simply called the “Polar High,” and its winter growth and summer shrinkage were well documented, while its undulations somewhat less well understood.
The videoclip shows the wind circulation pattern but does not show a West-to-East movement of the air-mass in general as it properly should over time.
Both weather and climate are fascinating! Keep up your brilliant work, Anthony!

Gene

“… caused when an area of low pressure sits at the rotation pole of a planet.”

This expression subtly implies that the situation is similar for all planets and that there are no other causes. Why then Venus’s is called a surprise?
http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Surprises_in_the_South_polar_vortex_in_Venus_atmosphere_999.html
We know Venus is an anti-planet, and the surprising behaviour is observed at its South pole, but still, why is it surprising? Maybe the stuff that is impinging on the poles (whatever it is) already has significant spin?

Andrew

Just so we’re clear on this new warm high pressure vortex:
– if the temp anomaly is hot, that’s due to accelerating Global Warming which warms the Arctic fastest ™, especially where there aren’t any temp readings (which have to be interpolated)
– the cold anomaly is caused by a polar vortex, which is caused by Global Warming

ren

This is the cause of the ozone in the stratosphere temperature rise. This results from a chemical reaction.

Green Sand

ren says:
February 8, 2014 at 4:03 pm

This is the cause of the ozone in the stratosphere temperature rise. This results from a chemical reaction.

What is “this”?

holts

From memory southern hemisphere looked like that in SH late winter-early spring 2013 with split vortices also

holts
TImothy Sorenson

Well, after it complete splitting in two, we just need the larger of the two to split again and we have the scenario of “The day after tomorrow.” 3 large vortexs in the north, causing the tropoosphere to pull -154C weather down from the Mesosphere. 🙂

Mike

Does anybody besides me notice that a misplaced Polar Vortex seems to cover the same general geography as during a glaciation?

Bill H

justthefactswuwt,
What many lay people do not understand clearly is the poles will appear to warm due to the eddies when in fact the temperature imbalance (heat escaping/cooling) is what drives the circulations intensity. The polar temps may very well be warmer right now due to the exchange in surface and upper atmosphere winds but the over all trend is cooling. I call this the paradoxical presentation of a cooling world.
“Here you can see that 10 day Averaged Eddy Heat Flux Towards The North Pole At 100mb is near a record daily maximum as it was in early January when the earlier weak vortex event began:”
The closer we get to a balance of the heat budget the differential temperatures will reduce and with them the winds and circulations. In a warming world the pressure is reduced at the poles and the cooling is localized to the poles. The wild fluctuations today indicate to me that the cooling is rapid and the heat being collected from the sun is decreasing.
The paradox seems to fool people…

Policycritic

justthefactswuwt says:
February 8, 2014 at 4:32 pm
“Scientists tend to call the jet stream a “polar vortex,” Francis says.”

How does she get away with this?

Bill H

Let me clarify a bit.
The polar vorticies are a massive down welling of cold to super cold air. It is accompanied by two high pressures (generally speaking). The size and intensity of which has increased over the last ten years. This lumbering big boy sometimes splits simply due to its size, earths rotation and the intrusion (running into) of the polar jet.
This cold air mass is pressured against the polar jet where it is distributed over the hemisphere causing the polar jets average temp to drop. This increase in temperature imbalance then causes wild fluctuations in the jet. The intrusion of the polar jet to as low as 10 Deg Lat. is seen as an effort to bring equilibrium to the heat on the planet by cooling the mid latitudes.
When the sun or other heat generating items are not giving sufficient input or the receiving planet reflects such heat, the balance must change. Our sun is taking siesta by the way 🙂
The poles will appear warmer due to air movement when infact, we are cooling rapidly. Ice melt and all that goes with the warmer temps will happen and is to be expected. The flip side of this coin is what we in the US, Europe, Russia, etc have been experiencing for some years now with cooling summers and very cold winters in mid latitudes.
Given the history of the LIA and the suns impact on that time period, it is my belief we are headed there right now..

Tee Jay

The January circulation of warm moist tropical air that usually hits the Northwest from central California into Canada and SE Alaska was headed nearly due north into SouthCentral Alaska during January. That may be the tropical warmth mentioned as eddys. That has now changed and California is getting rain, and the forecast is for WA and OR to be wet at least for the next 7 days. It is reported to be 18deg F in Palmer, AK today, so the “normal” winter flow has returned.
Now, let us see how that narrative about a quicker transition to Summer holds up. How about we come back to this in late May or so and evaluate that statement?

The split doesn’t last for long, reforms over Northern Canada in a few days. Just goes to show us how strong the PV has been this winter.
http://users.met.fu-berlin.de/~Aktuell/strat-www/wdiag/figs/ecmwf1/ecmwf10f120.gif

jorgekafkazar

I can guarantee you this vortex system will never be modeled. Academics may try, and fail, and then claim they’ve been successful, but it will all be lies.

Harry

Can anyone explain to how come the DMI temps for 80deg north and above are showing a consistent 5degC positive anomaly (it was as high as 10deg), yet the charts for sea surface anomaly just below it (in Anthony’s sea ice references) show neutral to slightly cold, and winter temps in North America are said to be at 30 year lows.
It doesn’t seem to make sense.

Bill H

And our January thaw, the one that was just like clock work for 40 years.. didn’t happen this year in the US West and Mid West…
The cold air massing in the arctic with the vortex split will resume shortly. The split, disintegration and rebuild happens in about 5-10 days. The remains of the split is still stronger than many winter vortexes of the 80’s and 90’s. This has not warmed the west and midwest as of yet.
After getting two days with record lows being smashed by 11 deg F (-32 deg F) and record low highs below zero, I am all for some global warming.

J Martin says:
February 8, 2014 at 2:47 pm
Coincidental that both vortices are located in the vicinity of the two magnetic North poles ?
============
maybe not. Oxygen is attracted by a magnetic field.

nemo

@justthefactswuwt

“We’ve known for a long time that the atmosphere of Venus rotates 60 times faster than the planet itself, but we didn’t know why. The difference is huge; that is why it’s called super-rotation. And we’ve no idea how it started or how it keeps going.

http://phys.org/news194504586.html
seems like a decent theory at least.

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? It lurches this way and that, always trying to escape its confinement. Sometimes a constellation of circumstances arises that allows it to lurch a long way. Often it will then become a “cutoff low”, just as in a military engagement, too large a salient from the “front” is at risk of being pinched off and isolated.
Fear not. It is raining in California. Relief is coming.

Matt

@ #10
Sorry, that is nonsense. You have those effects on a global (sic!) scale and they never show up in your bathtub or toilet. You could ask a physicist; or watch The Simpsons which is made by physicists and which make good fun of this 😉
This has NEVER been demonstrated – show me one actual drain mentioned in literature or on video that is claimed to possess such properties.

eyesonu

ferdberple says:
February 8, 2014 at 6:05 pm
J Martin says:
February 8, 2014 at 2:47 pm
Coincidental that both vortices are located in the vicinity of the two magnetic North poles ?
============
maybe not. Oxygen is attracted by a magnetic field.
++++++++++++++++++++++
Vukcevic (I hope I spelled his name correctly) had some info in the past with regards to a relationship to the polar vortex and the two north magnetic poles. It was in a comment on WUWT and linked to his website. Interesting.

eyesonu

@
ferdberple says:
February 8, 2014 at 6:05 pm
and
J Martin says:
February 8, 2014 at 2:47 pm
=========
To add to my previous comment above.
I hope that Vukcevic will join in this discussion. Until he does I located this from his site. Not sure if it is the link I was looking for. http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/Arctic.htm

SIG INT Ex

Interesting.
I would suggest putting all the plots on a common scale, and units, with a modern geodetic projection and center-frame then re-plot all and re-present to us for inspection and comment.
Of course, you will NOT do this! Check, Mate, and Win for me.
Ha ha

It is interesting that where the spin is greatest at the poles, humans experience no centripetal force. However where humans experience no spin at the equator, they experience the greatest centripetal force due to the spinning earth. This is of course the reason the earth bulges at the equator.

Chewer

Much is to be studied in regard to magnetic pole (s) field component strengths (x,y,z).
The pseudo-opposite, strato-warm conditions are also worth study along with the upper atmospheric mixing between the layers.
What stimuli and conditions are needed within the ocean phases, and their contributions toward glacial and inter-glacial transitions & visa versa ?
How does the thin layer of our planetary mesosphere change during these conditions and what relationships are noted through all spheres held within the magnetosphere, troposphere included?
The chemical and typical physical properties may be less or equal to the electromagnetic influences…

asybot

@Nemo Thanks I went there because as I was reading the earlier comment my first thought was solar effect, that was great information and looking forward to the Japanese sat. getting there (could not resist though where there any polar vortexes @20,000 Leagues?)

SAMURAI

I live in Japan and just got through digging out of the worst snowstorm to hit the Kanto Region (where Tokyo/Yokohama/Nagoya cities are located) in about 20 years….
http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/rare-snowstorm-for-japan/23094551
It was incredible! It was much worse than the big snowstorm that hit Kanto 20 years ago….
Thank you, Polar Vortex, that was quite a display you put on yesterday….

nemo

@asybot
Heh, well, there’s a mælstrom…

The Polar Vortex is not caused by the mechanical rotation of the earth like a set of gears. It is at the foot print of the magnetosphere(magnetic fields) and the rotation/convection is an ionic wind…
“High-latitude plasma convection from Cluster EDI: variances and solar wind correlations”
“The magnitude of convection standard deviations is of the same order as, or even larger than, the convection magnitude itself. Positive correlations of polar cap activity are found with |ByzIMF| and with Er,sw, in particular. The strict linear increase for small magnitudes of Er,sw starts to deviate toward a flattened increase above about 2 mV/m. There is also a weak positive correlation with Pdyn. At very small values of Pdyn, a secondary maximum appears, which is even more pronounced for the correlation with solar wind proton density. Evidence for enhanced nightside convection during high nightside activity is presented.”
‘Low to Moderate values in the solar wind electric field are positively correlated to convection velocity.”
“A positive correlation between Ring current and convection velocity.”
http://web.ift.uib.no/Romfysikk/RESEARCH/PAPERS/forster07.pdf
Low Energy ion escape from terrestrial Polar Regions.
http://www.dissertations.se/dissertation/3278324ef7/

ossqss

How long have we been able to track these?
Now let’s just integrate the PDO and ENSO too, for simplicity.
Don’t know about you, kina stifling, no?
Like learning to fly.
http://youtu.be/eCB_INs2E24

ossqss

Do we have another paradigm shift in knowledge?
I remember an older one that happened
http://youtu.be/Iwuy4hHO3YQ

ossqss

Dedicated to Mosher.

Its all good !

Gail Combs

Mike says: @ February 8, 2014 at 4:37 pm
Yes Steve Goddard

jorgekafkazar

jorgekafkazar says: February 8, 2014 at 5:26 pm “I can guarantee you this vortex system will never be modeled. Academics may try, and fail, and then claim they’ve been successful, but it will all be lies.”
justthefactswuwt says: February 8, 2014 at 7:08 pm “Never is a really long time, but we can certainly agree that we are no where close right now….”
Agreed. But the lies have started already, anyway:

“It is unclear how much confidence can be put into the model projections of the vortices given that the models typically only have moderate resolution and that the climatological structure of the vortices in the models depends on the tuning of gravity wave parameterizations.
“Given the above outstanding issues, there is need for continued research in the dynamics of the vortices and their representation in global models.
” Stratospheric Polar Vortices, Waugh et al. 2010

There is no such need because there is no effective way to incorporate vortex dynamics in a fully determinate GCM. For several hundred million dollars of our resources, they may succeed in emulating polar vortices, but they’ll never be able to predict their chaotic loci, paths, or velocities for any significant period of time.

Jean Meeus

English is not my mother language, but in the title should “becomes” not be “become”?