Press-Republican

Columns

August 4, 2013

Changing climate changes the jet stream, which changes weather

So what is going on with the weather?

North Country humor frequently involves comments such as, “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute, it will change,” or “we get three seasons in a single day,” or some other variation of these.

But really, what is going on with our recent weather? A colder than usual May, record amounts of rain in May/June, and now in July a major heat wave concurrent with a record level of water in Lake Champlain. 

If you go to the National Weather Service site in Burlington, you will find that the rainfall amounts in May and June were high. Indeed, they set a two-month record of 18.6 inches for that time period over the entire data set of 127 years. 

What is happening elsewhere with the global nature of weather? There were devastating floods in Calgary, Alberta, also at this time. June temperatures in Talkeetna, Alaska, hit 96 degrees Fahrenheit, and it was warmer than Miami; Valdez, Alaska, hit 90 degrees, breaking the record of 87 set in 1957. 

In late June 2013, in Phoenix, US Airways canceled 18 flights because the maker of its jets did not have performance data greater than 118 Fahrenheit. At 119 degrees, it was not known for sure how much runway the planes would need to safely take off. 

Climate scientists are aware of these local happenings and the global extreme events, as well. It has become a major study as to why, with climate change, these extreme events occur and last so long. Research is beginning to shed some light on possible reasons. 

What scientists do is to collect and interpret data. There is no room for opinion. There is no justification for guesswork. The process of science is slow and meticulous, with time to shape ideas, challenge those ideas and formulate an explanation that fits. 

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