Earth’s Devastating Extreme Weather Traced to Climate-Altered Jet Streams, Says Study

Mar 28, 2017 10:19 AM EDT

There's no end to the negative effects of climate change. A new study revealed that man-made changes to the climate has also affected the jet streams in the sky, leading to extended periods of extreme weather that many countries have experienced as flooding or drought.

According to a report from Phys Org, lead author Michael Mann of Penn State University explained that their findings show that climate change isn't just causing extreme weather by the usual mechanisms like warmer temperatures and more moisture in the air.

"In addition to these effects, global warming is changing the behaviour of the jet stream in a way that favours more extreme and persistent weather anomalies," Mann said in an interview with AFP. "We have uncovered a clear fingerprint of human activity."

Jet streams are strips of strong winds that snake across the northern hemisphere around eight to 11 kilometers above the surface. It moves at about 300 kilometers per hour, driven by the interaction of cold polar air and tropical climes. Their paths create weather patterns around the world such as low- and high-pressure systems.

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It's when the jet streams slow down or stall that the weather systems become a problem, creating extended periods of hot or cold spells that can be disastrous to countries. Unfortunately, when there's a reduced temperature difference between polar air in the Arctic and tropical air, the jet streams take a halt. Climate change ensured this happens more frequently with the rising temperature in the Arctic.

The researchers analyzed records dating back to 1870, discovering that the jet stream stalled 70 percent more since the industrial age. This is also the time period most associated with the extreme jump in the production of greenhouse gases and ensuing global warming.

"What the new study does is connect the dots between the increased frequency of this jet stream effect and human-caused warming on the planet," Mann said.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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