In my last 2 State of the Pole posts (Dec and Jan), I noted that the Hudson Bay, the Baffin and Newfoundland Seas and Canadian Archipelago region was witnessing something astonishing: sea ice was forming weeks to months late. I identified a leading cause for this condition: for the 2nd winter in a row, the North Atlantic Oscillation and Arctic Oscillation were registering historical negative values. When they’re in their negative phase, both of these climatological phenomena allow arctic air to flow south and impact the U.S. and Europe because the polar jet stream weakens and meanders further south than it normally does. As colder air is allowed to move south, warmer air is allowed to move north. While the eastern U.S. and Europe have experienced a colder than normal winter along with more precipitation than normal, northeastern Canada has experienced the opposite: the warmest 30-day period in mid-winter on record. Of course, the fact that the Arctic has undergone rapid, significant changes in the past decade are also part of the reason for this occurrence. Our influence on the climate system has loaded the die. With each toss, there is a higher chance that extreme weather events will occur.
The climate change denial zombies love to point out snowstorms and cold air outbreaks in the U.S. during winter. They somehow think it means their patron saint James Inhofe was correct when he stated that global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind. While they’re busy pointing out that yes, indeed, it does snow in winter, they try very hard to ignore the fact that seas that should be frozen by December 1st remain unfrozen in late January. Has it been cold along the eastern U.S.? Yes, 5–11°F below average for the 30-day period between 17 December 2010 to 15 January 2011. During that same time, however, northeastern Canada witnessed surface temperatures from 16 to greater than 38°F above average – for 30 days! Recall that in my write-up of NASA’s and NOAA’s global temperature analysis for 2010, both agencies identified December as being among the warmest Decembers on record globally. Despite one of the strongest La Ninas on record and a slow emergence from the sun’s latest cycle minimum, December was still warm compared to over 100 years of global temperature records at 0.67°F above average. One of the drawbacks of looking at the global average is the possibility of masking averages that might indicate something important occurring over smaller regions – like northeast Canada.