Wild-Winter Whodunnit—Climate Change Over the U.S. With a Slow Jet Stream? – Facts So Romantic

This map produced by NOAA shows the land-surface temperature anomaly: how the temperature deviated from normal, on average, over the month. The darkest red areas were 12 degrees Celsius (22 degrees Fahrenheit) above average, while the darkest blue areas were 12 degrees Celsius below average.NOAA

A question hangs like a cloud over the deeply weird winter: Why? What might explain the bizarre warmth of western North America, while the east was buried in a slow-motion avalanche?

Nobody knows for sure, but there’s a very plausible link to climate change. A fast-warming Arctic could alter the jet stream, the vast river of air that flows from west to east around the Northern Hemisphere and drives many of our weather patterns.

Caveats apply, of course. Earth’s systems are too fabulously complex to conclusively link a single event to climate change, and research connecting winter weather to warming-induced jet stream fluctuation is still young. That said, “this is exactly the kind of pattern we expect to see more often,” says Jennifer Francis, a Rutgers University climatologist and leading proponent of what’s known as the “warm Arctic, cold continent” hypothesis—though it might better be called, weird continent.

For the second straight year,…
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