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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Wavy Jets

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Monday, June 23, 2014/Categories: natural history, space science, environment

The jet stream has been making some big waves lately. The high atmospheric wind pattern drives weather  around the northern hemisphere by pushing storm systems on direction or another and sometimes impacts their progress as well. The recent wavy pattern could explain both the extremely hot and extremely cold weather events that have been occurred lately.

According to research published in Nature Climate Change:

"there has been a large number of extreme weather events in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes during the past decade. An open question that is critically important  is whether any such increase in extremes is natural or anthropogenic in origin. A better understanding of the role of planetary waves in causing mid-latitude weather extremes is essential for assessing the potential environmental and socio-economic impacts of future planetary wave changes. "

Examining jet stream data between 1979-2010 to measure the most extreme rainfall and temperature variations from the norm, the analysis showed that wavy waves overwhelmingly matched months with record temperature and precipitation extremes. The lead investigator commented:

"the increased waviness made the western part of the USA more susceptible to heat waves while the eastern part is more likely to experience extreme cold events. Droughts in the central part of the country were also much more likely when waviness increased."

NASA has produced an animated visualization of the "wavy" big data sets.


Data Visualization of Jet Stream Waves   (credit: Goddard Visualization Studio)

The changes observed in the wavy jet stream can alter the water cycle because a warmer atmosphere can hold more water this can foster bigger storms. Stay tuned for more big events!

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