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Polar Vortex and Climate Change: Why Rush Limbaugh and Others Are Wrong – weather.com How the Polar Vortex is Changing

Polar Vortex and Climate Change: Why Rush Limbaugh and Others Are Wrong

By Terrell Johnson Published: Jan 9, 2014, 10:44 AM EST weather.com


Here’s some news for people on all sides of the climate change debate: Winters still get cold, often unbearably cold, especially if you live in a place like Crane Lake, Minn., which hit 38 below zero this week.

But no matter how low the temperature dropped in your area today, that doesn’t mean global warming isn’t happening.

So as Americans debate whether a warming planet can still have punishing winters and try to figure out what a “polar vortex” is – with everyone from Rush Limbaugh to the Drudge Report and a few other commentators talking about it – we’d like to add a dose of science to the conversation.

Let’s look at the claims skeptics are making one by one:

1) “Polar vortex” is a concept “created to make you think winter is caused by global warming.”

Yesterday on his radio program and website, Rush Limbaugh called a “hoax” the claim that global warming was causing the cold weather snap, and that the media had invented the term “polar vortex” to explain it all away.

Actually, the term “polar vortex” is not a new one. It’s used by meteorologists to describe a pattern of winds that swirl around the North Pole, as Weather Underground’s Dr. Jeff Masters describes it in a blog post today:

“In the winter, the 24-hour darkness over the snow and ice-covered polar regions allows a huge dome of cold air to form. This cold air increases the difference in temperature between the pole and the Equator, and leads to an intensification of the strong upper-level winds of the jet stream. The strong jet stream winds act to isolate the polar regions from intrusions of warmer air, creating a ‘polar vortex’of frigid counter-clockwise swirling air over the Arctic.”

For a historical perspective, here’s an article from the August 1950 issue of the scientific journal Tellus, describing a lab experiment that replicated the effects of the polar vortex.

2) Winters as cold as this one prove that global warming isn’t real.

On Monday, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) appeared on the floor of the U.S. Senate and said this:

(Please click the link below this article to see this video on the Weather Channel site)

We include this example not to pick on Inhofe, but to share one of the latest and highest-profile examples of claims about global warming and climate change that have spread around the mainstream national media in recent years.

In the video, Inhofe cites several examples of frigid cold and winter snowstorms from recent years, including one that he says “snowed out” a planned rally on global warming that was to be led by U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in March 2009.

No scientist argues that long-term global warming means that we won’t still experience winter, even bitterly cold winters like this year’s has become. The changes to the climate that scientists who are concerned about global warming point out are exactly that: long-term. Individual weather events don’t mean that the trend isn’t taking place.

(It’s also important to point out that the United States makes up less than 2 percent of the Earth’s surface. So even when we see heavy snow events and blasts of Arctic air like this week’s, there are many parts of the world experiencing record heat, such as Australia.)

3) The ship that got stuck in Antarctica proves polar ice isn’t melting.

Since Christmas, nearly every day has brought reports of the Russian ship carrying researchers and adventure tourists that got stuck in sea ice on its way to Antarctica.

After a few aborted attempts, the passengers on board were finally rescued, but a pair of icebreaker ships remained stuck in ice-clogged Commonwealth Bay off the coast of Antarctica.


This photo, taken by passenger Andrew Peacock on Dec. 29, 2013 shows a thin fresh coat of snow on the trapped ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy as it waits to be rescued. Passengers on the Russian research ship, then trapped in thick Antarctic ice, were facing an uncertain wait for one last icebreaking attempt.

To climate change skeptics, the episode has made for entertaining talk-show fodder. On his radio show Monday, Rush Limbaugh said this:

“Well, obviously there is no melting of ice going on at the North Pole. If they’re gonna tell us the polar vortex is responsible for this cold, that means record cold is also happening in the North Pole, which means there isn’t any ice melting, and we know about the global warming expedition that went down to the South Pole, Antarctica, to prove that the ice is melting, and they got stuck, and then the rescuers got stuck, and then the people rescuing the rescuers got stuck, but never mind that.

“They were just exploring the Antarctic, the news said. No; what they were doing was going down to prove the ice was melting, and they got stuck in it because they ran into ice where they didn’t expect to find any. So no matter how they go at this, they’re losing.”

When it comes to Antarctic sea ice, Limbaugh isn’t off the mark. Last September, the amount of sea ice that surrounds Antarctica reached the largest extent on record since measurements began in the late 1970s. It’s a development that has puzzled climate scientists, because it’s occurred even as the world’s air and oceans have warmed significantly during the same time period.

But Limbaugh spoke in the show section quoted above about the North Pole – the Arctic. There, the trend since the 1970s has been unequivocally downward:

Average Monthly Arctic Sea Ice Extent in November, 1978-2013


Including 2013, the linear trend in November ice extent is –4.9 percent per decade relative to the 1981 to 2010 mean, or a loss of about 20,700 square miles per year. (Courtesy National Snow and Ice Data Center)

Though the Arctic’s sea ice extent did rebound this year from 2012, when it shrank to an all-time record low for summer, the long-term trend of declining sea ice in summer continues.

This year was still the sixth smallest sea ice extent on record, and older, thicker Arctic sea ice continues to rapidly melt away. You can see more at the Arctic Report Card released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in December.

4) The planet hasn’t warmed for the past 15 years, so climate change isn’t real.

Technically, this isn’t really true. Though surface temperatures haven’t gone up by as much as climate models predicted they would by now, they’ve still been rising slightly throughout the decade.

Starting with its first report in 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected that the planet would warm by about 0.15 to 0.3°C per decade, if greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere continued at their current pace.

That projection held true for years until about 1998, one of the planet’s hottest years on record. Since then, despite ever-increasing emissions, global temperatures have risen by only about 0.05°C per decade.

Why this is happening is something climate scientists still are trying to figure out. Many point to the world’s oceans, which are absorbing most of the increase in both heat and carbon dioxide, while others note that our most-cited historical temperature observation recordsleave out large parts of the planet, including the poles.

Still, it’s undeniable that a long-term warming trend remains in place, as this temperature trend map from 1960 to 2013 shows:


Trends in mean surface air temperature from 1960 to 2013. Notice that the Arctic is red, indicating that the trend over this 50-year period is for an increase in air temperature of more than 2°C (3.6°F) across much of the Arctic, a larger increase than in other parts of the globe.

As the map above shows, warming doesn’t occur at the same rate worldwide. Some places, like the tropics, have warmed at a much slower pace than the higher latitudes, where warming has been most pronounced.

And the world hasn’t stopped experiencing dramatic warming: the past decade has been one of “unprecedented” climate extremesaccording to the World Meteorological Organization, while 2013 brought the world’s hottest November in more than 130 years of record-keeping, and 2012 was the hottest year on record for the U.S.

If global warming is indeed on “pause,” we can only hope it doesn’t resume.



Daily Kos :: Why Cold Weather Does Not Disprove Global Warming

Why Cold Weather Does Not Disprove Global Warmingby alexforgue Jan 05, 2014 7:00am PST

One of the things that I hate most about snow storms and ice-cold weather besides shoveling snow or scraping ice off my windshield is that conservatives use it as a talking-point to disprove climate change.

Most people who watch Fox News will think that cold weather disproves global warming because they think “oh hey, it’s not warm outside so therefore the globe can’t be getting warmer.” This logic however is flawed.

Now, I can’t blame people because most people don’t have any background or education in any type of atmospheric science, and they get tricked into thinking that their flawed logic is correct.

Now, the atmosphere and global climate systems are very complex subjects to learn and understand, but as a college student majoring in physics with a minor in meteorology (atmospheric physics), let me explain some science that will hopefully change the way people view cold weather and global warming.

First, we must distinguish the difference between weather and climate:

Climate is the average weather conditions over a long-period of time in a more generalize area.
Weather is the current state of the atmosphere in the short-period of time in a more specified area.

Just because we have winter, it does not mean that global warming doesn’t exists. Winter is a season, and seasons are related to the Earth’s position relative to the sun. Seasons exists because the Earth is tilted 23.5 degrees, and as the Earth revolves around the sun, the angle of sunlight changes in certain areas. If the Earth wasn’t tilted, we wouldn’t have any seasons.

Since the angle is less direct and the
heat is being spread over a greater area, the ground isn’t going to be as warm, and the sun isn’t going to stay up as long which means that there is less heat coming in than there is in the summer. (Yeah for physics!)
Now, let’s talk about winter weather. So we know why it gets cold in general, but there are other factors that affect the weather. The weather that we are about to experience with temperatures below zero will be caused by an air mass chilled by the artic that has made its way down to the United States and Canada; this happens sometimes, and therefore does not disprove global warming.

Fun fact: the warming of the stratosphere of the arctic results in a high pressure system which can weaken the polar Jetstream while the midlatitude Jetstream strengthens which causes air to move from the arctic to the mid-latitudes. Long story short, air moves from high pressure to low pressure. If you want to get a higher understanding of how that works, you can read thisarticle here . Yes, global warming can caused stronger winter storms. Storms are fueled by heat, and more heat will result in more energy that needs to be distributed by the storm. But let’s talk about global warming in general.

Global warming is caused by an increase of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. However, one of the things that I feel that climate change activists have done wrong is that they have labeled the greenhouse effect and greenhouse gasses as a bad thing, but rather in a natural state we need the greenhouse effect to live on this planet, it’s too much greenhouse gases that is the problem. This is known as the “enhanced greenhouse effect.”

Greenhouse effect = Good
Enhanced Greenhouse effect = Bad.
The greenhouse effect (to keep it simple) works like this: The sun emits visible light (radiation) which reaches the ground and heats the ground; the ground, once heated, begins to release this heat back into the atmosphere as infrared radiation. Now without the atmosphere and greenhouse gasses, the heat would immediately come in and go out, but greenhouse gasses slows the process by trapping the heat and reemitting it back to the ground thus the energy coming in is faster than the energy coming out.

However, if we have too much of this, the globe will get very hot very quick. A very simple argument that is never used by climate change activists is the comparison of Earth’s atmosphere to the atmosphere of Venus. First you must understand that Venus and Earth are almost the same size and have the same amount of CO2. The difference is that most of Earth’s CO2 is stuck in rocks while most the CO2 of Venus is in its atmosphere.

Earth’s atmosphere contains .004% of CO2 while the atmosphere of Venus is made up of 96.5% of C02. The average temperature of Earth is 15 degrees centigrade (or 59 degrees Fahrenheit.) While the average temperature of Venus is 467 degrees centigrade (or 872 degrees Fahrenheit)

You see, as you increase greenhouse gasses like CO2, the temperature increases. (See graph below)

Given that direct correlation of the amount of CO2 and temperature, conservatives who deny climate change somehow can’t look at Venus and think “hey maybe we shouldn’t take the rocks filled with CO2 in the ground and burn them so the CO2 gets in Earth’s atmosphere.”
For some reasons, some people can’t understand why polluting CO2 into the atmosphere is bad idea even looking at a planet right next to us that has an atmosphere with 96.5% CO2 makeup with a 872 degree Fahrenheit temperature.

This isn’t a complex idea, its simple physics and math. The more CO2 and greenhouse gasses there are in the atmosphere, the warmer the temperature.

Lastly if all else fails, and the person you are debating still isn’t phased by facts, you can always pull a Zack Kopplin and say “Well, you’re not a scientist.”

“I find it funny that people who know nothing about the atmosphere try to tell me that climate change isn’t real” – My former weather and climate professor. Follow @alexforgue
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Why The Arctic Sea Ice Death Spiral Matters | ThinkProgress

This article is from August 2012, but it is an easy to understand summary of why the loss of ice matters and what the methane issue I posted about yesterday means for a non-scientist.

We need to switch to cleaner sources of energy asap-the Keshe stuff, E-cat, solar, wind, ocean currrent power-there is no shortage of replacements for burning carbon if we can jsut break the now-literal death grip of the fossil fuel companies on our planet.

“Disclosure” for me is more about access to the suppressed technology than aliens, financial skullduggery or the apparently vast child molestation problem in places of power-simply because it is literally the difference between extinction and abundance-not a hard choice for most of us!

Why The Arctic Sea Ice Death Spiral Matters

Arctic sea ice extent takes a nosedive this year. What does it mean for us? (Source: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)

By Neven Acropolis with Kevin McKinney

In the past week the Arctic sea ice cover reached an all-time low, several weeks before previous records, several weeks before the end of the melting season. The long-term decline of Arctic sea ice has been incredibly fast, and at this point a sudden reversal of events doesnt seem likely. The question no longer seems to be will we see an ice-free Arctic? but how soon will we see it?. By running the Arctic Sea Ice blog for the past three years Ive learned much about the importance of Arctic sea ice. With the help of Kevin McKinney Ive written the piece below, which is a summary of all the potential consequences of disappearing Arctic sea ice.

Arctic sea ice became a recurrent feature on planet Earth around 47 million years ago. Since the start of the current ice age, about 2.5 million years ago, the Arctic Ocean has been completely covered with sea ice. Only during interglacials, like the one we are in now, does some of the sea ice melt during summer, when the top of the planet is oriented a bit more towards the Sun and receives large amounts of sunlight for several summer months. Even then, when winter starts, the ice-free portion of the Arctic Ocean freezes over again with a new layer of sea ice.

Since the dawn of human civilization, 5000 to 8000 years ago, this annual ebb and flow of melting and freezing Arctic sea ice has been more or less consistent. There were periods when more ice melted during summer, and periods when less melted. However, a radical shift has occurred in recent times. Ever since satellites allowed a detailed view of the Arctic and its ice, a pronounced decrease in summer sea ice cover has been observed (with this year setting a new record low). When the IPCC released its Fourth Assessment Report in 2007, it was generally thought that the Arctic could become ice-free somewhere near the end of this century. But changes in the Arctic have progressed at such speed that most experts now think 2030 might see an ice-free Arctic for the first time. Some say it could even happen this decade.

What makes this event significant, is the role Arctic sea ice plays as a reflector of solar energy. Ice is white and therefore reflects a large part of incoming sunlight back out to space. But where there is no ice, dark ocean water absorbs most of the sunlight and thus heats up. The less ice there is, the more the water heats up, melting more ice. This feedback has all kinds of consequences for the Arctic region. Disappearing ice can be good for species such as tiny algae that profit from the warmer waters and extended growing season, but no sea ice could spell catastrophe for larger animals that hunt or give birth to offspring on the ice. Rapidly changing conditions also have repercussions for human populations whose income and culture depend on sea ice. Their communities literally melt and wash away as the sea ice no longer acts as a buffer to weaken wave action.

But what happens in the Arctic, doesnt stay in the Arctic. The rapid disappearance of sea ice cover can have consequences that are felt all over the Northern Hemisphere, due to the effects it has on atmospheric patterns. As the ice pack becomes smaller ever earlier into the melting season, more and more sunlight gets soaked up by dark ocean waters, effectively warming up the ocean. The heat and moisture that are then released to the atmosphere in fall and winter could be leading to disturbances of the jet stream, the high-altitude wind that separates warm air to its south from cold air to the north. A destabilized jet stream becomes more wavy, allowing frigid air to plunge farther south, a possible factor in the extreme winters that were experienced all around the Northern Hemisphere in recent years. Another side-effect is that as the jet stream waves become larger, they slow down or even stall at times, leading to a significant increase in so-called blocking events. These cause extreme weather simply because they lead to unusually prolonged conditions of one type or another. The recent prolonged heatwave, drought and wildfires in the USA are one example of what can happen; another is the cool, dull and extremely wet first half of summer 2012 in the UK and other parts of Eurasia.

[JR: See Arctic
Death Spiral: How It Favors Extreme, Prolonged Weather Events ‘Such As Drought,
Flooding, Cold Spells And Heat Waves’

The accumulation of heat in Arctic waters also influences other frozen parts of the Arctic, such as glaciers and ice caps on Greenland and in the Canadian Archipelago. As there is less and less sea ice to act as a buffer, more energy can go into melting glaciers from below and warming the air above them. This has a marked effect on Greenlands marine-terminating glaciers and the Greenland Ice Sheet. Not only are glaciers flowing faster towards sea, but there is also a rapid increase in the summer surface melt Greenland experiences, leading to accelerating mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet. As the Arctic warms, an increased contribution to sea level rise is inevitable.

Another way Arctic warming could have worldwide consequences is through its influence on permafrost. Permanently frozen soils worldwide contain 1400-1700 Gigatons of carbon, about four times more than all the carbon emitted by human activity in modern times. A 2008 study found that a period of abrupt sea-ice loss could lead to rapid soil thaw, as far as 900 miles inland. Apart from widespread damage to infrastructure (roads, houses) in northern territories, resulting annual carbon emissions could eventually amount to 15-35 percent of todays yearly emissions from human activities, making the reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere a much more difficult task.

An even more worrying potential source of greenhouse gases is the methane in the seabed of the Arctic Ocean, notably off the coast of Siberia. These so-called clathrates contain an estimated 1400 Gigatons of methane, a more potent though shorter-lived greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Methane clathrate, a form of water ice that contains a large amount of methane within its crystal structure, remains stable under a combination of high pressure and low temperature. At a depth of 50 meters or less the East Siberian Arctic Shelf contains the shallowest methane clathrate deposits, and is thus most vulnerable to rising water temperatures. Current methane concentrations in the Arctic already average about 1.90 parts per million, the highest in 400,000 years.

Apart from these unrecoverable sources of fossil fuel the Arctic is also endowed with large amounts of recoverable oil and natural gas. As the sea ice retreats, the Arctics fossil treasures are eyed greedily by large corporations and nations bordering the Arctic Ocean. Not only might this lead to geopolitical tensions in a world where energy is rapidly becoming more expensive, it is also highly ironic that the most likely cause of the disappearance of Arctic sea ice the extraction and burning of fossil fuels could lead to more extraction of said fuels. Another feedback loop.

News articles referring to the Arctic and its sea ice usually have pictures of polar bears accompanying the text. But although many animals in the Arctic will be impacted negatively by the vanishing of Arctic sea ice, much more is at stake. After thousands of years in which the sea ice played a vital role in the relatively stable conditions under which modern civilization, agriculture and a 7 billion strong world population could develop, it increasingly looks as if warming caused by the emission of greenhouse gases is bringing an end to these stable conditions. Whether there still is time to save the Arctic sea ice, is difficult to tell, but consequences will not disappear when the ice is gone. It seems these can only be mitigated by keeping fossil fuels in the ground and out of the air. Whichever way you look at it, business-as-usual is not an option.

For more information on Arctic sea ice, check out the Arctic Sea Ice blog.

Neven Acropolis with Kevin McKinney

Images used:

Arctic sea ice extent reconstruction Kinnard et al. 2011
Sea ice albedo feedback NASA
Polar jet stream NC State University
Greenland ice sheet surface melt NASA
Permafrost distribution in the Arctic GRID-Arendal
Atmospheric methane concentration NOAA ESRL
Russia plants flag at North Pole Reuters


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Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog : Survey says: 97% of climate scientists agree that humans cause global warming | Weather Underground

This is one of my favourite blogs of all time. Dr Master’s is a great scientist and a very fun and easy to read writer-not always a common combo. I’ve seen a lot of nonsense “science” and plain silliness on global warming on various blogs over the years, but Dr Master’s sticks to clear science with no weird political rhetoric and silliness.

I wanted to be a scientists for most of my life, and studied for it in school so I guess I take the plain ridiculous articles on science topics as more annoying than most people do. I highly appreciate cutting edge science like Rupert Sheldrake, and the stuff in David Wilcock’s excellent Source Field Investigations book, but work like theirs is dragged down by the unsupported idiocy that is so often published alongside it on otherwise awesome blogs.

Science isn’t hard to define, it requires the scientific method. For some reason people like to make it political, use statistics to lie, “gatekeep” and say certain things are “not science” even tho they use the scientific method properly but violate the politics of what is *allowed* to be studied, or conversely claim political rhetoric as science because they don’t like where the real science leads(as in the global warming area).

You can learn to spot the liars, gatekeepers, and Big Oil funded nonsense pushers by learning about how science really is done, and how it is published, and then look again at the articles claiming global warming isn’t real , or isn’t related to burning fossil fuels. They always leave things out, make absurd assertions without giving any supporting *facts* and often simply slander real scientists in order to keep people confused. Or present as “facts” unsupported assertions with no proof.

If ANY real science supported the idea that global warming wasn’t real, why would Big Oil have hired the same advertising firm used by Big Tobacco to purposefully obscure the dangers of tobacco for decades in order to avoid legislation to protect people?

eh, sorry to rant, but Big Oil really bugs me with such tricks-especially since they wrecked my Gulf with their stupid Deepwater Horizon mess.

Survey says: 97% of climate scientists agree that humans cause global warming

Posted by: Dr. Jeff Masters, 4:14 PM GMT on May 07, 2013 +40

Two studies done in 2009 and 2010 found that 97% of actively publishing climate scientists agree that humans cause global warming. But what would a larger sample of the scientific literature show, extended all the way up to 2011? You’re invited to help find out, by participating in an anonymous 10-minute survey where you will be reading the abstracts (summaries) of ten randomly selected technical papers on Earth’s climate published between 1991 and 2011. The survey was created by physicist John Cook of The Global Change Institute at Australia’s University of Queensland. Mr. Cook is the creator of one of my favorite climate change websites, skepticalscience.com. He authored one of our special Earth Day 2013 essays, Closing the Consensus Gap on Climate Change, from which I have pulled Figure 1 below. Mr. Cook is lead author on a new paper called “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature,” to be published in the next month or so in Environmental Research Letters. The paper analyzes the same papers included in the survey you’re asked to participate in, and the researchers plan to compare the results. Each of these 11,944 papers written by 29,083 authors and published in 1,980 journals included the keywords “global warming” or “global climate change” in their listing in the ISI Web of Science database. After reading each abstract, you will be asked to rate the level of endorsement within the abstract for the proposition that human activity (i.e., anthropogenic greenhouse gases) is causing global warming. There will be these choices available on a drop-down menu for you to choose from:

1. Explicit Endorsement with Quantification: abstract explicitly states that humans are causing more than half of global warming.
2. Explicit Endorsement without Quantification: abstract explicitly states humans are causing global warming or refers to anthropogenic global warming/climate change as a given fact.
3. Implicit Endorsement: abstract implies humans are causing global warming. E.g., research assumes greenhouse gases cause warming without explicitly stating humans are the cause.
4. Neutral: abstract doesn’t address or mention issue of what’s causing global warming.
5. Implicit Rejection: abstract implies humans have had a minimal impact on global warming without saying so explicitly. E.g., proposing a natural mechanism is the main cause of global warming.
6. Explicit Rejection without Quantification: abstract explicitly minimizes or rejects that humans are causing global warming.
7. Explicit Rejection with Quantification: abstract explicitly states that humans are causing less than half of global warming.
8. Don’t know.

When you are all done, the survey will let you know how your average score for the ten papers compares to the rating given by the authors. The survey took me about 8 minutes to complete, and it was interesting to see the tremendous diversity of research being done on global warming in my random sample. I’ll post about Mr. Cook’s results when his paper is published in the next few months.

Figure 1. Two recent studies have sought to measure the level of agreement in the scientific community in different ways and arrived at strikingly consistent results. A 2009 study led by Peter Doran surveyed over 3,000 Earth scientists and found that as the scientists’ expertise in climate change grew, so did the level of agreement about human-caused global warming. For the most qualified experts, climate scientists actively publishing peer-reviewed research, there was 97% agreement. Alternatively, a 2010 analysis led by William Anderegg compiled a database of scientists from public declarations on climate change, both supporting and rejecting the consensus. Among scientists who had published peer-reviewed climate research, there was 97% agreement. However, it is worth pointing out that science is not decided by majority vote. This is articulated concisely by John Reisman who says: “Science is not a democracy. It is a dictatorship. It is evidence that does the dictating.” Figure and text taken from Mr. John Cook’s special Earth Day essay, Closing the Consensus Gap on Climate Change.

Thanks for participating!

Jeff Masters