The new climate state: climate change and the deadly extremes that have been hitting the northern hemisphere


We live in an ocean of air: however the thin, fragile membrane that envelops our planet is changing from one state to another.

The ever-increasing levels of greenhouse gases are trapping more and more heat.

By changing the chemistry of the atmosphere, we change the climate.

Welcome to the anthropocene.

The following paper with the less than sexy title of Quasiresonant amplification of planetary waves and recent Northern Hemisphere weather extremes is getting quite a bit of attention. An early edition of the paper is now available on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) website (see link).

It is a dense, technical piece. If you have the fortitude or technical ability then I highly recommend it. The research was conducted at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. This is deep science, not the faux science of an 800 word post on Watts up with that?

It describes the mechanism that has been driving the devastating extremes across the northern hemisphere these past few years. In short, climate change is repeatedly disturbing the patterns of airflow around the northern hemisphere.

The abstract:

In recent years, the Northern Hemisphere has suffered several devastating regional summer weather extremes, such as the European heat wave in 2003, the Russian heat wave and the Indus river flood in Pakistan in 2010, and the heat wave in the United States in 2011. Here, we propose a common mechanism for the generation of persistent longitudinal planetary-scale high-amplitude patterns of the atmospheric circulation in the Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes. Those patterns—with zonal wave numbers m = 6, 7, or 8—are characteristic of the above extremes. We show that these patterns might result from trapping within midlatitude waveguides of free synoptic waves with zonal wave numbers k ≈ m. Usually, the quasistationary dynamical response with the above wave numbers m to climatological mean thermal and orographic forcing is weak. Such midlatitude waveguides, however, may favor a strong magnification of that response through quasiresonance.

The even shorter abstract: the recent destructive climate events in the heatwaves in the US and Europe, the flooding in China and Japan in 2012 can be attributed to changed atmospheric conditions.

See also this fantastic video on extreme weather:

Quote: “Weather that forms now, forms in a different state”.

In other words, the attribution debate is over: we’ve loaded the weather dice against ourselves.

Signal from the noise: climate change is having a deadly impact already.

I’m interested in readers thoughts, especially those of you with technical backgrounds in climate on this paper.



24 thoughts on “The new climate state: climate change and the deadly extremes that have been hitting the northern hemisphere

  1. zoot says:

    Oh it will all go away soon. Global warming stopped in 1998 (or was it 1997? – no, it was probably 1996)


  2. takver says:

    There are several presentations by Prof Francis on youtube on arctic amplfication, the jetstream and extreme weather. The one you embedded was the most recent I could find (from 2013) and the length (40 mins) is manageable and speaks to a wider, not necessarily science based audience.

    I transcribed her comments on whether Arctic climate amplified Rossby waves contributed to the severity or course of Hurricane Sandy. See the transcription at the bottom of my article here:

    All extreme weather events now have a climate component in them, and where there is a good collection of historical weather data, many will be able to be clearly determined to have a substantial human climate change component through fractional risk attribution modelling. The East African drought of 2000 was the latest weather event that has been demonstrated to have a strong component caused by human climate change.

  3. uknowispeaksense says:

    My prediction, if Watts has a go, he will grab Figure 5 and make a comment about statistical significance after using his trusty eyecrometer. He might even get a yellow highlighter out.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      I found the paper surprisingly interesting. I doubt Watts will find a reason to have a go at it – it wasn’t the usual “worse than we think” nonsense.

      • uknowispeaksense says:

        congrats on failing to absorb the seriousness of the situation outlined in the paper. Don’t bother quotemining the 32 year quote. I’ve already commented to you about that.

  4. zoot says:

    Jeez, Erric and Skeptical(not!) are taking a long time to regurgitate the rebuttal from the Church of Watts.

  5. Eric Worrall says:

    Mike, you forgot to mention recent extreme cold events in your post.

    Given that you guys now identify any deviation from average temperature as evidence for global warming climate change global climate disruption, adding record cold events such as snowmageddon, bitter cold in Asia, the current Russian winter, freezing weather in China, etc would surely add weight to your argument.

    Here’s a helpful list of things caused by CO2 in case you run short of ideas.

    • zoot says:

      Of course!
      Erric’s been busy reading the dense, technical piece and now he’s giving us the benefit of his laser sharp analysis of it. Nothing gets past our gimlet eyed Galileo.
      Notice how he didn’t actually address the topic of the post? Pity about that, but it’s pretty much par for the course.

    • Berbalang says:

      Snowmageddon is not called Snowmageddon because of record cold. It is called Snowmageddon because of record amounts of snow. If it was due to record cold temperatures it would have been called something like Coldmageddon or Freezemageddon. Record amounts of snow tend to occur during relatively warm Winters.
      Also I prefer to use the term Global Warming. (With a flip of the bird to Frank Luntz!)

      • Eric Worrall says:

        There’s a fascinating climategate email in which climate scientists discuss rebranding their movement, during their “The Day After Tomorrow” phase.

        I think the notion of telling the public to prepare for both global warming and an ice age at the same creates a real public relations problem for us. … In my experience, global warming freezing is already a bit of a public relations problem with the media, which can become public perception. Last Friday, even NERC put-out a press release that opened ‘British scientists set sail today from Glasgow to begin work aimed at discovering if Britain is indeed in danger of entering the next ice age.’ … I think this is a real problem, and I agree with Nick that climate change might be a better labelling than global warming.

        In any case, it hardly matters whether it was a warm snowy winter or a cold dry winter (do you say “dry” in relation to snow? hmmm), or an unusually warm winter. Any deviation from average is evidence of our impact on the planet.

      • john byatt says:

        erics stolen emails

        This scenario is based on a lot of sloppy and sensationalistic writing
        >by the
        >brain guy (Calvin?) who wrote the Atlantic Monthly article, and the fact
        >others,like the Beeb I guess, like to have the opportunity to show
        >of icebergs floating down the Thames. It’s not absolutely out of the
        >question, but given the direct effects of greenhouse gases in warming
        >the planet, it’s more likely that a THC shutdown would moderate the
        >European warming at the expense of making someplace else in the
        >world hotter. Those who lived through the Canicule in Europe last
        >would find this scenario appealing, but at the same time the heat wave
        >shows that there are other circulation changes (so far not at all
        >that could in fact make Europe a very hot place. What kind of
        >change could lock Europe into deadly summer heat waves like that
        >of last summer? That’s the sort of thing we need to think about.
        >The message regarding the lesson of the THC should NOT be “global
        >will cause an ice age.” The message should be one about year to year or
        >decadal variability, and the way alternation of cold
        >with very hot ones will exacerbate the problem of adaptation. Imagine a
        >of torrid heat, thirty years of pretty good climate, fifty years of
        >early frosts,
        >a century of drought, twenty years of flood — that’s the kind of thing
        >we need to worry about, not the simple “icebergs in the Thames”

  6. […] The New Climate State: Climate Change And The Deadly Extremes That Have Been Hitting The Northern He… […]

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