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The Polar Vortex, Winter Storm Grayson, and Climate Change: What’s the Connection?

The Polar Vortex, Winter Storm Grayson, and Climate Change: What’s the Connection?

Brenda Ekwurzel

Scientists are making progress in better understanding how much natural seasonal patterns, ocean cycles, and other factors play a role in altering the jet stream and how much global warming is responsible.

The jet stream and polar vortex on January 3, 2017. (Photo: Map from the University of Maine Climate Change Institute.)

Scientists noticed an unusual winter pattern in the jet stream that started around the year 2000. Before that time the jet stream was typically fast with small waves that kept the cold air contained in the Arctic region. However, the jet stream began slowing down, and its waves meandering more.

The distance between the peak (like the green and yellow band peaking near the intersection of the borders between Alaska and the Yukon Territory of Canada in Figure 2) and the trough (the highlighted red, yellow, and green area near the southern US) has become much longer since the 2000s when compared to prior decades.


Thanks for that Brenda - I have been watching the jet stream maps of Canada (Environment Canada) for some twenty years now, but your presentation clears up at lot for me. I noticed changes, but as an amateur - thanks again - and especially am I glad to see this article on Common Dreams.

The maps are intimidating, but worth spending time on.

With over 400 ppm CO2 now - we are in a different epoch geologically. Talk of whether this or that is ‘due’ to global warming is fatuous - those giant ocean currents have been absorbing ~ 93 % of the Earth’s energy imbalance - i.e., global warming is absolutely ocean warming - with the coupling of land and atmosphere to the world ocean a virtual certainty, or, in other words:

It’s all global warming - every day, everywhere - all the time.

But it is complicated - in other words:

We humans are not nearly as smart as we would like to be - complicated is a ‘polite’ way of saying we don’t fully understand.

More articles like this svp !


Hey Many…like we discussed a few daze ago, the jet stream has gone bonkers. What is troubling is the oceans current. If the atlantic current stops. not just slows down but stops, we are in deep doodoo. That conveyor belt is just another piece of the puzzle to watch, it’s easy to get confused, way too easy for me :slight_smile:


And there’s every reason to believe that’s the case - the conveyor has stopped.
Hope it’s not true - but there it is …

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As humans toxify Earth there will be a growing instability of major weather patterns due to global warming, a big component of the poisonous soup humans produce daily. The only question remaining is whether humans want to survive this cataclysm. It’s up to them and there are no technological magic spells or cures on the horizon. They are pipe dreams at best.

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Everything on Earth’s wonderful spaceship is inter-connected and inter-dependent. The lunatic leaders running things in the ground are too busy toxifying things and warring to realize this. The leadership of the planet, especially here in the US, have failed miserably to address this issue. Humans will not survive with ‘business as usual’ policies which will guarantee our demise. Things must drastically change and I don’t see that happening in my remaining years. A gradual reduction of toxic pollution will be too slow to help.


Clearly this is not a good time to have a federal government that is not functioning properly. It could be said we are on a collision course with nature and we cannot count on the government to even recognize it let town take effective action.


Corporate climate deniers are also warmongers. The impacts of catastrophic climate change will certainly lead to the deaths of millions of people, no less than by armed warfare. Where petroleum interests go, they leave behind disaster, disease and death. Trump and his filthy ilk are planning World War III to profit producing armament and munitions and profit rebuilding privatized infrastructure. Think about that on your next fill-up.


It’s my understanding there are 7 pumps, the last time I looked only 2 were working and they were slow. It’s been years since I’ve looked but this has to be an influence. Just has to be.

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Way too slow of a response time. There just isn’t anyway to get in front of the curve. As an example global travel and the damage planes and boats does. That is never discussed. It’s all cars, what BS.


Agreed! I live in a major port city. The amount of trans-ocean container shipping, and the further shipping via rail and motor transport is staggering!

Scientists are making progress in better understanding how much natural seasonal patterns, ocean cycles, and other factors play a role in altering the jet stream and how much global warming is responsible. Some say a lot, others not as much. This is a robust scientific discussion that has continued to evolve over the past several years.

This statement, with a few variations is in all of the MSM right now regarding this extraordinary last week of weather in the US.

I appreciate this author pointing out that since 2000 a major change has happened in the jet stream, it is just mind blowing how in the same article, the requisite “well we really don’t know yet if ACD is the direct cause” is included.

But, hey, what the fuck else is new. I know, I know. Science is cautious in this regard, but this is more than just that, it is the unspoken directive to not dare EMPHASIZE any LIKELIHOOD that there is a direct relationship.

I mean, sure, looking at that map of the lopsided cold area having come over the Continental US, while Alaska is much warmer needs more study to state that the bets are on ACD being the cause of this.

Oh no, have to be a Climate Centrist.


I am okay with the scientists being cautious with their statements on the polar vortex. Kevin Trenbirth has been supporting a different explanation for the polar vortex. I don’t think we can say for sure what is affecting the jet stream. There are differences in opinions among scientists for the explanation. The mainstream media is being accurate by saying so.

“Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, is skeptical about such connections and said he doesn’t agree with Yoon’s study. His research points more to the Pacific than the Arctic for changes in the jet stream and polar vortex behaviour, and he said Yoon’s study puts too much stock in an unusual 2012.”

My guess is that Kevin is mostly influenced by the politics of it all.

How the hell can any rational person scientist or otherwise, not conclude that the major shift in jet stream patterns isn’t directly a result of ACD?

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Edit not available…adding these links to my previous reply.

Mann has been notoriously conservative in his statements…here is his science on this topic.

And this…post 2012 study by Francis


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I’ve been thinking about this article all day Ditton.

Picture the jet stream (north) as a sine wave on a normal day.

What Brenda is saying, if I read it correctly, is that both the amplitude and the wavelength have increased as a result of global warming since approximately 2000.

I think it is also true that the persistence of these waveforms has increased.

This is possibly one of those ‘generic’ signs of an impending ‘critical threshold’ - i.e., the sluggish controls of a small plane as it approaches stall. The mathematicians, some of them anyway, think there are indeed ‘generic’ pre-state-shift signs like this - but they are not yet able to identify them with enough probability to say more at this time.

As for the ocean conveyor, Wallace Broecker’s coined term - we would know if it had stopped - so far so good.

But the danger of it slowing, or the downwelling changing position - is real.

Yes!!! it is staggering and then all those planes in the air. Cars are minor compared to all that.

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A big yes to the persistence, these wave forms don’t just come and go, they get stuck/stalled and if you look at the graphs the northern tip is focused where? It looks to me as if it wants to rejoin with its origin which would cover 1/2 of the globe. Born under a bad sign, I’ve been down ever since I could crawl :frowning:

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And the last few years, unfortunately, have seen a resurgence in demand for Large-engine “Muscle Cars”, and super-sized pick-ups for personal transportation. The Carter-era “gas-guzzler” tax should be revived.

Many do not understand the effects of ocean currents around the world let alone the term conveyor.