Climatic changes due to global warming
We often hear that climate change is radically reshaping the Arctic, a place many of us have never visited. As a result, it can be pretty hard to feel directly affected by what’s happening up in a distant land of polar bears, ice floes and something odd called permafrost.
A new booklet from the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council wants to change that. Synthesizing much past academy work on the Arctic region, the booklet– being released just before the United States assumes the chairmanship of the eight-nation Arctic Council later this month — blazons this message: “What Happens in the Arctic Doesn’t Stay in the Arctic.”
Here are four potential ways, drawing both upon the new report and much of our prior reporting here, that changes in the Arctic will reverberate well beyond it and, in some cases, have planet wide consequences:
1. Changing Your Weather.
Visualization of a very wavy northern hemisphere jet stream. Credit: NASA
This is controversial, but there is growing scientific research backing the still contested conclusion that changes to the Arctic are leading to changes in weather in the mid-latitudes. The basic idea is that a warmer Arctic plays games with the jet stream, the stream of air high above us in the stratosphere that carries our weather and that is driven by temperature contrasts between the mid and high latitudes.
If the Arctic warms faster than the mid latitudes do, then the jet stream could slow down, goes the theory. It could develop a more elongated and loopier path, leading to a persistence of particular weather conditions — whether intense snow, intense heat, intense rain, or something else that is, you guessed it, intense.
A recent study published in the journal Science found that a more wavy and elongated jet stream in the summer “has made weather more persistent and hence favored the occurrence of prolonged heat extremes.”
The National Research Council handles the controversy over this idea by simply stating that “some scientists” have suggested these changes to the jet stream are happening. For now, we’ll simply have to watch closely as the debate over this idea continues.