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Thu Jan 17, 2013, 12:28 PM

Sudden Stratospheric Warming Split the Polar Vortex in Two

Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 08:05 PM PST
Sudden Stratospheric Warming Split the Polar Vortex in Two
by FishOutofWater

Sudden stratospheric warming has split the polar vortex in two. The polar vortex, which forms and deepens as the atmosphere looses heat to space in the darkness of the long Arctic winter night, was split in two by massive heating from below. A series of intense storms in the far north Pacific intensified a very long wave in the lower atmosphere. Energy on that planet sized wave went upwards from the lower atmosphere around the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau and broke into the stratosphere, causing major sudden warming. It rapidly reversed the strong cyclonic winds in the stratosphere around the pole, creating a central dome, breaking the vortex into two smaller vortices.

We can see the splitting by making a map of the heights a weather balloon rises to to reach the very low atmospheric pressure of 50 mb. A standard atmosphere is 1013mb.

The polar vortex was intact at 50 millibars (heights in m) on January 1 to 3.




The polar vortex had broken in two (50millibar heights in m) on January 10 to 13.



Major stratospheric warmings have taken place, on average, every other year over the past 50 years. The physics of these warmings is very complicated. Since 1998 these warmings have been more frequent and earlier in the winter. Previously, major warmings typically happened in February. Over the past decade they have happened in December and January, but this one is exceptional on all counts. This stratospheric warming is apparently the strongest ever observed in the first half of January according to the NOAA figure. No one knows why the number of major warmings is increasing but a correlation has been with positive sea surface temperature anomalies and the active phase of the solar cycle. This year the sun is active and there are large positive sea surface temperature anomalies in the north Indian ocean and the north-west Pacific.



The dynamical activity in recent winters reveals that the frequency of MWs (Major Warmings) in the Arctic is increasing (e.g. CharltonPerez et al., 2008). ...

On average, during 1957/581990/91, MWs occurred only once every two Arctic winters (e.g Bancala et al. , 2012; Cohen and Jones, 2011; Andrews et al., 1987). Conversely, no MW occurred in 9 consecutive winters from 1989/90 to 1997/98, except a minor warming in early February 1990 (Manney et al., 2005).

However, there were 7 MWs in 5 out of the 6 winters from 1998/99 to 2003/04. The winter 1999/00 was unusually cold but each other winter was prone to MWs... Furthermore, two MWs were observed in 1998/99 and 2001/02...This warming sequence continued and there were 5 MWs in 5 winters again in 2005/062009/10... Many of the MWs in recent years have been atypically early (December/early January) compared to those found before 1990s, which were observed mostly in February.


Animation of temperature anomalies at the 30mb pressure surface in the stratosphere shows the magnitude of this massive event.



Major stratospheric warming events like these have a large impact on the weather. The warm air in the stratosphere radiates heat and sinks, then warms as it sinks by compressional heating. It causes a mound of relatively warm air and high pressure to develop around the pole. Cold air is pushed away from the pole, in this case under the two vortices. In the Pacific ocean the dynamic interaction of the cold air with abnormally warm water off of the northeast coast of Japan developed one of the strongest north Pacific storm in many years with a central pressure of 932mb, as low as a major hurricane, and modeled wave heights of over 60 feet.



At its most intense point, the storm had an air pressure reading of about 932 mb, roughly equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane, and more intense than Hurricane Sandy as that storm moved toward the New Jersey coastline in October. (In general, the lower the air pressure, the stronger the storm.) The storm's central pressure plunged by 48 to 49 mb in just 24 hours, making it one of the most rapidly intensifying storms at a mean latitude of 34N since 1979, according to a data analysis by Ryan Maue of Weatherbell Analytics.

On Tuesday, the storm spanned a staggering 1,440 miles, according to David Snider, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Alaska. That's equivalent to the distance between Denver and New York City


The swell will generate massive waves on the north and west shores of the Hawaiian Islands. NOAA's outstanding surf forecaster, Pat Caldwell is forecasting 24 foot wave face heights without the amplifying effects of refraction by the sea floor. In surf spots refraction can double these wave heights. 50 foot wave faces are possible on Friday at outer reefs on Kauai and Oahu.

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The vortex over north America has been pushing cold air over the United States. Multiple outbreaks of Arctic air can be expected over the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada over the next ten days. A winter storm developing now over the southern Appalachians is forecast to bring snow to the DC area tomorrow afternoon. Then the storm is predicted to intensify over the north Atlantic. The amplifying energy of the southward displaced vortex over north America are forecast by the GFS model to make the storm "bomb" to a 944mb low south of Greenland. Huge waves are forecast to hit the Atlantic coast of Europe early next week.



http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/01/16/1179397/-Sudden-Stratospheric-Warming-Split-the-Polar-Vortex-in-Two#comments

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Arrow 25 replies Author Time Post
Reply Sudden Stratospheric Warming Split the Polar Vortex in Two (Original post)
FourScore Jan 2013 OP
Odin2005 Jan 2013 #1
Motown_Johnny Jan 2013 #4
Last Stand Jan 2013 #2
jillan Jan 2013 #14
Melinda Jan 2013 #3
BumRushDaShow Jan 2013 #5
FourScore Jan 2013 #6
BumRushDaShow Jan 2013 #10
BlancheSplanchnik Jan 2013 #17
Viva_La_Revolution Jan 2013 #7
hogwyld Jan 2013 #24
Viva_La_Revolution Jan 2013 #25
Berlum Jan 2013 #8
jpak Jan 2013 #9
flamingdem Jan 2013 #11
Fire Walk With Me Jan 2013 #12
WillyT Jan 2013 #13
jillan Jan 2013 #15
SunSeeker Jan 2013 #16
Separation Jan 2013 #18
Berlum Jan 2013 #22
SpankMe Jan 2013 #19
Blue_In_AK Jan 2013 #20
gkhouston Jan 2013 #21
alfredo Jan 2013 #23

Response to FourScore (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 12:36 PM

1. So that's the cause of this cold snap?

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 12:50 PM

4. I barely understand any of that, but it looks like

a portion of the vortex, the smaller half near the bottom of the second illustration, has moved farther south (onto Canada) and is pushing some of that cold farther south as a result

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Response to FourScore (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 12:37 PM

2. Nothing to see here.

(Just your planet blowing up.)

Please focus your attention on the Notre Dame story and everything will be ok.

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Response to Last Stand (Reply #2)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 02:23 PM

14. Did you see Jon Stewart the other nite when they did a story about an investigative journalist

being fired from CNN?
When they asked top officials of CNN why that happened, TDS was pretty much told that those types of
stories don't help ratings.



I swear - Jon Stewart maybe the only investigative journalist left (besides Rachel).
How SAD is that?

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Response to FourScore (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 12:44 PM

3. Wow.

Just

Thank you for one of the most informative posts on this subject that I've read on DU. Lots of information and lots to learn - eye opening.

Would that more could see.

K&R

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Response to FourScore (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 12:50 PM

5. I am trying to figure out what they would then consider "the PV"

for MJO purposes, if it has split into 2. Seems the consensus is to reference the bigger piece

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Response to BumRushDaShow (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 12:51 PM

6. I have no idea what this graph is you posted.

The polar vortex looks pretty clear to me in the OP.

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Response to FourScore (Reply #6)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 01:08 PM

10. It is the Madden-Julian Oscillation

http://cawcr.gov.au/staff/mwheeler/maproom/RMM/index.htm

It tracks the position of the polar vortex over time. The posted graph is for the past 40 days. Each month's line is a different color and the points are by date.

The quandrants on it show geographic areas of the earth. The very center circle is right over the north pole. If the line starts heading into "phase 8"' it is over here by North America. It looks to be in "phase 7" which is over Asia (where the cold anomaly maps that you posted show the bigger piece).

The NOAA site for the discussion and forecasts are here - http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/precip/CWlink/MJO/mjo.shtml



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Response to BumRushDaShow (Reply #10)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 02:48 PM

17. in layman's terms....does this mean

It's time to bend over and kiss our asses goodbye?

No snark intended! I just am no meteorologist, but that report doesn't sound good.

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Response to FourScore (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 01:01 PM

7. It's been 10 degrees colder than usual in PDX, arctic air and pollution trapped

near the ground, warmer air above. (freezing fog every morning). same for today and tomorrow, Sat we warm up a bit to normal.

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Response to Viva_La_Revolution (Reply #7)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 04:35 PM

24. Not only that

But this has bee quite a long dry spell. My skin is starting to lose its moss...

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Response to hogwyld (Reply #24)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 04:55 PM

25. tell me about it

I've gone thru a whole bottle of lotion just on the webbing between my toes.

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Response to FourScore (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 01:06 PM

8. Cue the Republican Lie MACHINE

"Lie a, Lie b, and Lie c." - Official Republican Position

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Response to FourScore (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 01:08 PM

9. K&R and bookmarked

yup

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Response to FourScore (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 01:45 PM

11. Thanks for all of this info

It's not pretty but we should know how it's coming down.

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Response to FourScore (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 01:49 PM

12. FUCK. It's already going chaotic.

 

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Response to FourScore (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 02:08 PM

13. K & R !!!


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Response to FourScore (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 02:31 PM

15. Paging Al Gore here.... I want to ask him WHY when he became the spokesman for climate change -

and a dam good one at that, An Inconvenient Truth was as eye opening movie to many....

why is it that he owned Current TV and did not have one - just one - program dedicated to these stories????

The problem is that these stories are not getting reported.
And when it comes to Climate Change, Fracking, all of it - the loudest voices are the ones controlling the dialogue.

I really feel that in order for any changes to be made, education has to be the first step. The public needs to
hear about this. The public needs to hear more about the dangers of fracking. On and on. There is so much.

Al Gore was the perfect spokesman and had the outlet to be that person, but didn't. And I am baffled.

Yes, it would be nice if President Obama was more outspoken about Climate Change, but realistically he would need a movement of the American people to propel him into action. He has to fight and fight just to get the bills paid in DC with these clowns in Congress.

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Response to jillan (Reply #15)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 02:41 PM

16. Good question!

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Response to FourScore (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 02:50 PM

18. Was expecting to read about hole at the north pole and the mole people.

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Response to Separation (Reply #18)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 03:25 PM

22. "You rang? This shit freaks us out, too." - Mole People

"We blame the Republicans for this since they have been lying about global climate change for 30 freaking year." - Holy Moleys

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Response to FourScore (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 02:51 PM

19. We're doomed. n/t

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Response to FourScore (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 03:03 PM

20. That's fascinating.

I posted about this storm a couple of days ago. Someone on the NOAA Facebook site inquired if this storm had a name, and an Alaskan replied, "Yes, we call it Wednesday." ahead of this storm we had very unseasonably warm weather, almost 50 Sunday and Monday which caused school closures on Monday because driving conditions were very treacherous, water on top of ice. Alaska, the only place where school is closed when it's too warm. Yesterday and today we got about six inches of snow.


I wonder if Shell Oil has considered this phenomenon and its potential impacts on their proposed offshore drilling.

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Response to FourScore (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 03:12 PM

21. Well, if it dumps a shit-ton of snow on DC, maybe Congress will notice. n/t

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Response to gkhouston (Reply #21)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 03:30 PM

23. They will notice and claim that it debunks global warming.

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