The top of the world is turning red. No, that doesn’t mean more Eskimos are voting Republican. Temperatures north of 80° latitude as reported by the Danish Meteorological Institute are well above normal for the tenth winter in a row, and that is depicted by red on weather maps. The warming pole is blamed by some meteorologists for the breakdown in the jet stream which has kept the eastern US cold, the west coast hot, western Europe warm and wet, China and Japan cold, and Russia gloomy. Let’s go Around The World.
Anomalous Weather In The US, Europe And Asia
A big dip in the jet stream over the eastern US has kept that area cold, while the corresponding ridge over California has led to warm and dry conditions. With the jet stream persisting in its curled configuration, the next downstream trough (dip) in the jet stream is in the eastern Atlantic. This drove warm, wet air into Europe, where stations in Denmark and France reported those countries’ highest temperature for any January day.
The warmth was accompanied by record rainfall and subsequent flooding in Paris, where boats were banned from the Seine River, and part of the Louvre Museum was evacuated.
Continuing to follow the jet stream to the east, the next dip is over east Asia, where some cities in China have set all-time low temperature records. Tokyo had its coldest temperature in 48 years. And the scene of the Winter Olympics near Seoul has been unusually cold.
So You Think It’s Gloomy Where You Are?
In December of 2017, Moscow, Russia had only six (yes S-I-X) minutes (yes, M-I-N-U-T-E-S) of sunshine. This underpassed (sic) Moscow’s record for amount of sunshine in a calendar month by two hours and fifty-six minutes.
But eat your hearts out Muscovites. Despite your suffering, you did not set an all-time record. That record resides safely in London, which had no sunshine at all in December of 1890.
The early-January intense storm in the eastern US introduced widespread use of the terms, bomb, bomb cyclone, and bombogenesis. It is my opinion as a meteorologist that these terms should not be used by laypersons. Two of the terms are slang terms used casually by meteorologists and the third is a redundancy.
A ‘bomb’ is a powerful extra-tropical cyclone; ‘bombogenesis’ refers to the rapid process that can lead to a bomb; and ‘bomb cyclone’ is simply a tautology — a bomb IS a cyclone.
Ice Jams Wouldn’t Happen If Ice Didn’t Float
The recent extreme cold in the eastern United States froze rivers; then came a thaw. The inevitable result was breakup of the ice, followed by ice jams at bridges and other bottlenecks, leading to flooding upstream of the jam. Before we blame the weather, we should cast an eye on an unusual property of di-hydrogen monoxide (H2O). It is one of a minority of substances that is less dense in the solid state than the liquid. Result: ice floats. Consider what would happen if ice was a ‘normal’ substance and got denser in the solid state than the liquid. Ice would sink — no more ice jams. But what else?
If ice sank, ponds and lakes would freeze from the bottom up. First casualty: bottom dwelling creatures. But there’s more. Surface waters would continually be cooled by the low temperatures of the air, and ice would continue to build up. Many small and mid-size lakes would freeze completely, extinguishing life.
Luckily ice floats, and for more water to freeze, the cold has to be conducted through the ice, a much more cumbersome process than freezing surface water. So, voila, most lakes and ponds do not freeze to the bottom; living organisms survive, and ice fishing thrives.
Punxsutawney Phil is starting to see things. On a cloudy day he thought he saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter. Those of us in colder climes don’t see why we should suffer because of the hallucinations of a nearsighted groundhog. Nor do we at Decoded Science understand why the public is more interested in The Old Farmer’s Almanac than the latest science.
Blue Blood Supermoon Is Rare, But Here’s Something Rarer
From my vantage point in Massachusetts, I got a great view of the setting moon as it went into eclipse on January 31, 2017. Though the occurrences are irregular, blue blood Supermoons (full moon, total lunar eclipse, and Supermoon all at once) come around about four times per century. This is approximately the rate of occurrence of February with no full moon, which will happen this month. But here’s something much rarer: A Leap Year February with no full moon. There will only be three of these in the millennium that began with Y2K; the next one is in 2572.
Germany Will Miss Emissions Target
The breakthroughs of the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 may already be crumbling under the weight of the internal politics of individual countries.
Suspicions that Germany would not meet its 2020 targets have been confirmed by the Merkel government. Faced with the necessity to negotiate with other parties to form a new government after electoral losses, Merkel was more or less forced to trade away emissions goals for support from right-of-center parties. Germany still produces 40% of its energy from coal-fired power plants.
Most embarrassingly for Germany, the admission of shortfall in emissions reductions was confirmed at the recent climate talks in Bonn, Germany’s former capital.
Technically, or more accurately phrased, in the language of Government Speak, Germany claims it will not ‘miss’ its 2020 target, but push it back a year or two. The later target of 2030 will remain the same. Hopefully this will not set a precedent under which promises of earlier targets are scrapped and later targets kept (for now). We know how that ends.
Paris still remains the best (and probably last) hope of curtailing greenhouse gas emissions, but the goal of keeping global temperature rise to 2 C already seems out of reach. Right now, short-term political and economic goals seem to, pardon the pun, trump saving the planet from overheating.
The next Weather Around The World Will Publish on March 6. The next Climate Change Checkup will publish mid-month, after release of NOAA’s January land and sea temperature analysis.