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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Scientists Blame Dramatic Weather On Weakening ‘Arctic Fence’

Hundreds of cars are seen stranded on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. (AP)

Hundreds of cars are seen stranded on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. (AP)

Many parts of Europe and the U.S. have seen unusual snowstorms and frigid temperatures for two years in a row. But places like northern Canada and Greenland have seen temperatures that in some months are running 15 to 20 degrees above average.

The reason, some researchers say, is a weakening “vortex,” a kind of atmospheric fence, that normally keeps cold air up north and warmer air south. We speak with Justin Gillis, who covers climate issues for the New York Times, about why the weather world seems to have flipped upside down.


Other stories from Thursday's show
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  • Josef schwabl

    During the last ice age the glacier line was the same as this years snow line in the US

    • iceman

      You don’t know what your talking about.
      Site your evidence, and I’m not talking Rush Limbo here or some other non peer review literature, or just admit that its just your opinion.

  • Free25

    Robin- Thanks so much for hastening to add that scientists do predict more extreme weather as a result of global warming. I’m so disappointed with the reporter’s comments that climate scientist are not attributing extreme weather to global warming. Scientists generally do not link single events to warming but the pattern of extreme events corresponds directly with the warming models.

  • The Shredder

    “The signature of ‘climate change’ is in the increased amplitude and frequency of extreme events.” That was my reply when asked about “global warming” in 1993. We had just experienced an extended Midwest drought in 1988 and floods in 1993. There are other markers that show this shift beginning approximately in 1976.

    Climate is always changing and your guest is absolutely correct about the comparatively short “instrumented” record used for climate analysis. The short record limits the statistical analysis needed to determine a long-term perspective of current extreme events.

  • SRfromGr

    Perhaps you forgot to mention that this Justin Gillis is not a scientist but was an economics editor at the Washington Post before going to the NYT and that he covered the business of energy, agriculture and retailing. No conflict there I’m sure…(insert sarcasm). How unfortunate that you would use him to explain what’s happening in our efforts to understand global warming and the dramatic climate change from a person who’s sole background has been to relate it to how it effects markets as opposed to people and our planet. Sad. Next time, look for expertise in your efforts to describe what’s happening on our planet from climate changes by seeking out a scientist at the very least. You owe it to your listeners. Also you need to disclose the background of the people you put on the airways more thoroughly. Mr. Gillis’ explanations that we just don’t know if this is related to global warming is highly suspect in my opinion.

    • The Shredder

      As mentioned in your post, I believe that “business of energy, agriculture and retailing” are the bottom line of how climate extremes (whatever the causes) affect those who live on the planet. Understanding how to “adapt” to climate change is the bottom line, otherwise this is just an academic exercise to see who can publish the most on this topic.

  • iceman

    Justin Gillis conveniently left out some important scientific data regarding past climate history. He says we only have “weather obsevations” going back to 1865. Correct, those are human observations, but what about ice cores. Ice cores and the scientific analysis of those cores, from multi polar locations, has given us a window into past climate history dating back hundreds of thousands of years. The US has recovered a 3030 meter core from the Summit of Greenland. Google “GISP 2″. The US also just recovered a 3330 meter core from Antarctica. Google “WAIS devide” The Europeans also recovered a core from nothern Greenland that goes back 200,000 + years. Google “NEEM”. To say we just don’t have the data is a total disservice to your listeners that relie on you to present all side of the story and not just some NYT “deniers” talking points. Get the facts…and leave the opinions on the “op ed” page.

  • sandman

    Your guest left out some key information.

    First, the global air temperature is back to the baseline based on data since 1979 (http://www.drroyspencer.com/2011/02/uah-update-for-january-2011-global-temperatures-in-freefall/) and sea temperatures are also down (http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/03/rss-global-temp-drops-version-change-adjusts-cooler-post-1998/#more-33209)

    And for historic winter storm information visit the National Snow and Ice Data Center – Notable Snowstorms and Blizzards since 1717 (link is http://nsidc.org/snow/blizzard/storms.html). Based on their information there was nothing unusual about the recent snow storm.

  • Pingback: Artic fence | Attackonhold

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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