How May Changes in Winter-time Cold Air Outbreaks Affect Fruit Production (credit: Climate Central)
DISCUSSION: As we continue to move further into the 21 Century, there is no debate that one of the leading concerns with respect to the future of mankind is the ability of society to maintain effective procedures conducive for longer-term sustainability. A pertinent issue with respect to the issue of global sustainability is learning how to better maintain global products of critical fruits and vegetables in the presence of a continually evolving global climate. On that note, one of the more premiere concerns is tied to the fact that depending upon how future cold air outbreak prevalence changes with time, that can directly impact Spring-time fruit production. This is directly a result of the fact that most fruit trees actually require a period of time during the Winter-time months wherein they enter a "rest period." It is during this period of rest that a given species of fruit tree essentially "re-charges" for the following fruit-bearing season.
If a given species of fruit tree does not get this much-needed period of rest during the Winter-time months (as reflected by the graphic attached above), then the beneficial effect of any initial Winter-time chilling is reversed and can often greatly negatively impact the net production of fruit during the following harvest season. However, when there is a longer-term period of colder air in place during the course of a given Winter season, this helps to more effectively provide a longer "chilling season" for various species of major fruit trees. Therefore, there is a clear threshold within which fruit trees can successfully achieve a maximum state of "Winter-time rest." Yet, if it gets too cold within the given fruit tree itself and the upper-most layers of the soil, excessively cold temperatures can also have a collective negative impact on seasonal fruiting potential for a given fruit tree species.
Thus, it will be critical to maximize both where and when fruit harvesting is conducted world-wide and how we act to increase sustainable use of planet Earth's natural resources as we get deeper into the 21 Century. That is, if we are going to continue living on a planet in which we can consistently have a globally sustainable production of fruit (and vegetables for that matter).
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
Modern Technology Struggles to Keep Up With Alaskan Climate Change (Credit: NOAA Climate.gov)
DISCUSSION: Climate Monitoring group officials at the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) met on December 4th, 2017 to conduct their monthly data processing meeting. NCEI is responsible for the processing of climate data from across the U.S. to track the effects of climate change. As group officials began analyzing data, however, they found that some data from the Utqiaġvik, Alaska weather station was missing. In fact, all the data from 2017 and data from several months of 2016 were missing.
Utqiaġvik is located in the northernmost region of Alaska, not far from Barrow. Unlike the rest of the country, Alaska is experiencing climate change more rapidly from thawing permafrost to changing sea ice coverage. In fact, sea ice coverage has receded to its lowest levels in recent years. Sea ice coverage is at its lowest in September and begins to return to the Alaskan coast in October and November. NCEI plotted data comparing the average November temperature and average sea ice coverage between 1979 and 2017 and the results showed a correlation between warming temperatures and lower sea ice coverage. The warmest November on record was in 2017, as well as the lowest sea ice coverage since 1979.
A record-warm November is just one example of an extreme change in Utqiaġvik’s climate. The above diagram represents the average monthly temperature change at the Utqiaġvik weather station for each month during two separate time periods: 1979—1999 and 2000—2017. The change in the summer months wasn’t extremely prevalent, but there was a notable change in the monthly average temperature of October, November, and December. All three months observed a temperature change of four degrees Fahrenheit over the last several decades.
Tracking long-term climatic changes, such as the aforementioned ones, via these weather stations isn’t easy for meteorologists. These stations are extremely fragile and can be interrupted by sensory changes, time of observation, and movement of stations. Stations are also prone to malfunctioning which is why algorithms such as the Pairwise Homogeneity Algorithm, or PHA, were developed. PHA tests were developed in an effort to combat stations that are reporting artificial data. Should a station’s observations change drastically when compared with neighboring stations and the data be inconsistent with past findings, the PHA test will flag the stations’ observations.
Utqiaġvik is an isolated station at the forefront of climate change. The combination of those two factors allowed the PHA test to detect a change in the observations, paving the way for the removal of over 12 months of data. The removal of sea ice nearby, attributed to climate change, may have had a major effect on the station’s ability to properly analyze data.
Modern technology in all its complexity is no match for the rapidly changing environment. The incident in Utqiaġvik is just one example of technological failure. For the time being, NCEI officials have begun slowly repairing the Utqiaġvik station so similar errors surely do not happen again.
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©2018 Weather Forecaster Jacob Dolinger
DISCUSSION: As we continue to move further into the 21st Century, there is little to no debate that as the Earth continues to most likely gradually warm with time, this will consequently affect the rate at which cold air outbreaks occur. Moreover, this gradual net planetary warming trend may also affect the magnitude of future cold air outbreaks when they do actually occur in various parts of the world. One of the premiere questions which many people around the world will continue to ask for quite a while moving forward will be how much different parts of the country and the world may change with time in terms of typical average high and low air temperatures.
As written by the Climate Central team: "For much of the U.S. east of the Rockies, middle to late January tends to be the coldest time of the year. Even though extreme cold can still happen in winter, as was seen earlier this year in much of the country, the frequency and intensity of extreme cold is declining as the world warms from the increase in greenhouse gases. Digging deeper, this week’s analysis examines the coldest night each year in cities across the country, and in most cases, the trend in that coldest night is warmer.
With no change in the rate of greenhouse gas emissions, warming of the lowest temperature of the year will continue. According to the 2017 U.S. Climate Science Special Report, that coldest reading each year will rise several degrees in parts of the U.S. by the middle of this century. The warming will be most prevalent in the Upper Midwest, across the Great Lakes, and in the Northeast, where up to 10°F of warming is projected.
While the decrease in cold may sound good on a cold winter day, that warming comes with consequences for farming, recreation, economy, and the environment. Fruit trees, which need to become dormant over the winter to bloom in the spring, may produce smaller yields. Winter-based activities in colder climates, like skiing and snowmobiling will become less prevalent, and the tourist economies that support them may struggle. More disease-carrying insects, like ticks and mosquitoes will survive through a milder winter."
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
Insights into Melting Arctic Ice and Global Weather Patterns (Credit: NOAA, NSDIC, Climate Central)
DISCUSSION: In recent weeks, weather patterns across the Eastern Seaboard have become the talk of many news outlets. From frigid cold snaps and below zero wind chills to bomb-cyclogenesis, weather patterns have gained a substantial amount of media attention. What if I told you that we, as a society, could possibly experience more of these unpredictable weather events?
Along with unpredictable weather patterns, Arctic sea ice seems to be the go-to for media attention whenever a climate or weather topic arises. Not to downplay the issue of melting sea ice, for it is a vital component of the climate system. Over the course of the past century, Arctic sea ice has seen a fluctuating but steady decline in both size and depth. On a year-to-year basis, this may not seem like the case due to some years having more ice than others, but Arctic sea ice has seen a steady, overall decline. For example, December 2016 experienced the second lowest ice extent that has been recorded by satellite data which goes back to 1979.
How does this information affect global weather patterns? Well, Arctic sea ice has a characteristic called albedo. Albedo is the overall reflectiveness of an object or given area; the higher the albedo, the higher the reflectivity. The Arctic has a high albedo due to all the white snow and ice, which reflects the Sun’s incoming radiation back out to space. This helps cool the surrounding region along with contributing to global albedo. With a melting Arctic, the albedo lowers due to less reflective snow and ice, and more open, dark ocean waters. In turn, the Arctic then absorbs more energy and heat which then warms the area.
Moreover, an Arctic with less ice means a warmer Arctic. A warmer Arctic means a weaker temperature gradient between the poles and equatorial regions. A weaker temperature gradient between the Arctic and equator can decrease the magnitude of the polar jet stream. The polar jet carries and influences global weather patterns. To explain, the jet stream is a river of fast moving air high up (roughly 11 kilometers) in the atmosphere that marks the boundary between warm air to the south and cool air to the north. Simply, the jet stream also acts as a highway in which weather systems travel upon. A weak temperature gradient has the potential to shift the jet stream and plunge Arctic air farther south than usual. Sea ice loss may present the mid-latitudes with colder winters due to the aforementioned weakening of the polar jet stream which directly influences the mid-latitudes. A weaker jet stream can present a more meridional (wavy) flow; this can possess longer-lasting and more persistent weather. Along with this, strong, slow-moving storms in the mid-latitudes have an increased potential to develop, eventually leading to greater weather extremes such as blizzards, floods, and droughts.
The Arctic acts as the “refrigeration unit” of the global climate system which balances out the much warmer Tropics. In this role, the Arctic helps regulate the energy balance between the climate system and weather circulation patterns. Large scale weather and ocean patterns rely on the temperature difference between the poles and equatorial regions. The melting of Arctic sea ice can also disrupt normal ocean circulations because of the influx of freshwater. This freshwater, inevitably warming, will create heated air to rise and change wind patterns, perturbing the jet stream further. The overall change freshwater influx can have on wind patterns can also potentially alter overall weather patterns. Ocean circulations and wind patterns both contribute to each other. When one is affected the other follows suit in an unpredictable way.
Although it is difficult to directly link changing weather patterns with climatic changes, everything within a planet’s climate system is linked. When one part is altered, all other parts respond accordingly. Future research and data are needed to either confirm or deny the claim that less sea ice can affect global weather patterns.
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©2018 Weather Forecaster Alec Kownacki