By Chris Mooney November 20
It may be the timeliest — and most troubling — idea in climate science.
Back in 2012, two researchers with a particular interest in the Arctic, Rutgers’ Jennifer Francis and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Stephen Vavrus, published a paper called “Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes.” In it, they suggested that the fact that the Arctic is warming so rapidly is leading to an unexpected but profound effect on the weather where the vast majority of us live — a change that, if their theory is correct, may have something to do with the extreme winter weather the U.S. has seen lately.
In their paper, Francis and Vavrus suggested that a rapidly warming Arctic should interfere with the jet stream, the river of air high above us that flows eastward around the northern hemisphere and brings with it our weather. Sometimes, the jet stream flows relatively directly from west to east; but other times, it takes long, wavy loops, as in the image above. And according to Francis and Vavrus, Arctic warming should make the jet stream more wavy and loopy on average – some have called it “drunk” — with dramatic weather consequences.
Here’s the atmospheric physics behind the idea: Warm air expands, and naturally there is much more warm air at the equator than at the poles. Thus, the atmosphere is thicker at the equator, and the jet stream’s motion is driven by the decline in atmospheric thickness as one moves in a poleward direction — in effect, its atmospheric river flows “downhill,” in Francis’s words. However, if the Arctic is warming faster than the mid-latitudes, then the difference in thickness as you move in a poleward direction should decrease. And this should slow the jet stream, leading to more loops and turns — and consequently, weather of all types getting stuck in place for longer. There’s a nice video explanation of this by Francishere:
According to Francis, the extreme U.S. winter of last year and now, the extremes at the beginning of this season, fit her theory. “This winter looks a whole lot like last winter, it’s a very amplified jet stream pattern,” she says. “We know that when we get these patterns, it tends to be very persistent. And it is definitely the type of pattern that we expect to see more often as the Artic continues to warm so fast.”
To be sure, Francis acknowledges that our recent bout of extreme cold was kickstarted most directly by Typhoon Nuri, which swerved up into the mid-latitudes and exploded into an atmospheric bomb over the Bering Sea. “That had the downstream effect of basically taking the jet stream and giving it a whip, whipping a wave into it,” says Francis. But she also suspects that the jet stream is more susceptible to these kinds of dramatic influences because it is weaker now. In general, her theory does not say global warming caused any particular weather event, only that it is shifting the overall pattern of jet stream behavior, making certain kinds of persistent weather extremes more likely to occur.
Francis isn’t the only one to suggest this. The widely read weather blogger Jeff Masters mused yesterday on whether the extreme snowfall in western New York this week might be due to “jet stream weirdness.” “We’ve seen an unusual number of extreme jet stream patterns like this in the past fifteen years, which happens to coincide with the period of time we’ve been observing record loss of summertime Arctic sea ice and record retreat of springtime snow cover in the Arctic,” noted Masters — although he refrained from fully embracing the theory, noting that it still has its detractors. Capital Weather Gang’s Jason Samenow also just discussedthe evidence behind Francis’s idea, which he calls “controversial.”
Francis argues, however, that the evidence in her favor is mounting — she cites no fewer than five (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) scientific papers published in the last year or so that she considers supportive, and hints that more are coming. “We’ve got 5 papers that all look at that particular mechanism in different ways — different analysis, different data sets, observation and models — and they all come to the same conclusion and they all identify this mechanism independently,” she says.
You can’t call Francis’s idea fully established. You can’t say there’s a “scientific consensus” on it. And you can’t say that the august U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change embraces it. Not yet. But it’s certainly a very serious idea and one of the most discussed theories in climate science. Call it a contender. And if it’s right, well…then we all know, already, what global warming feels like.Chris Mooney reports on science and the environment.
via Advocating Progress.
Tony Hansberry II was a ninth-grader. The new sewing technique he has developed helps to to reduce the risk of complications and simplifies the hysterectomy procedure for less seasoned surgeons.
His goal is to attend medical school and become a neurosurgeon. For Tony, it all began in school. He attends Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts, a medical magnet school for middle and high school students. As part of its integrated medical curriculum, students receive medical instruction, but are also exposed to medical professionals who demonstrate advanced surgical techniques with specialized equipment. His lead medical teacher, Angela TenBroeck, told the Florida Times-Union that Hansberry is a typical student, but is way ahead of his classmates when it comes to surgical skills “I would put him up against a first year medical student. He is an outstanding young man,” she said.
During his summer break, Tony volunteered at the University of Florida’s Center for Simulation Education and Safety Research (CSESaR) at Shands Jacksonville Hospital. He was supervised by Dr. Brent Siebel, a urogynecologist, and Bruce Nappi, the administrative director. Together they worked with Tony exploring the mannequins and simulation equipment that physicians and nurses use in training. He became quite interested in invasive surgery and using laparoscopic instruments. As the story goes, one day an obstetrics and gynecology professor asked the group to help him figure out why no one was using a particular surgical device, called an endostitch for hysterectomy suturing procedures. This long medical device has clamps on the end, but Tony used the instrument in a new way allowing for vertical suturing, instead of the traditional horizontal method. After two days, Tony had perfected and tested his new technique. He soon developed a science fair project comparing the suturing times of the vertical endostitch closures vs the horizontal closures using a conventional needle driver instrument.
His results showed he was able to stitch three times faster using this new method. Use of this inventive technique may lead to shorter surgical times and improved patient treatment.
Found on http://www.oshpd.ca.gov/through
“The GOP-led House is suing Mr. Obama in part for delaying the employer mandate — a provision of the Affordable Care Act that Republicans in the House don’t want to implement anyway. In fact, the House has actually passed a bill though it died in the Senate to stop the implementation of the provision. And if the lawsuit were successful and Mr. Obama were forced to implement the mandate, the House would once again pass a bill to stop its implementation.”
— CBS News’ Stephanie Condon, explaining the absurdity of the House GOP’s Obamacare lawsuit.
— Want to know just how much Obama overreached on executive power? Wait for America’s next ‘king’ | Scott Lemieux | Comment is free | The Guardian
Is it the executive order legal? Probably, yes. Separation-of-powers arguments do not involve mechanical precision, and it’s not impossible to argue that Obama’s actions violate the Constitution. But the arguments will be necessarily weak. As Ben Wittes explained at the Lawfare blog, Congress gave the executive branch discretion over when to issue deportation orders and it didn’t require the attorney general to issue deportation orders for everyone who is theoretically eligible for deportation. Obama’s more systematic refusal to deport people eligible for deportation might violate the spirit of the law, but it doesn’t violate the letter. Discretion in law enforcement is inherent to executive power, and in the case of immigration enforcement, Congress did not even try to eliminate it. Claims that Obama’s refusal to deport people makes him a lawless tyrant are, to be charitable, overstated….
Does using executive privilege to achieve immigration reform set a dangerous precedent? Well, long before Obama even ran for elected office – as Erwin Chemerinsky and Samuel Kleiner observed at the New Republic – Ronald Reagan “took executive action to limit deportations for 200,000 Nicaraguan exiles” and the first President Bush did the same for some Chinese and Kuwaiti citizens. At most, Obama’s actions differ only in degree, not kind.
In a more general sense, presidents have been pushing the limits of their constitutional authority since the beginning of the republic. If you had asked Thomas Jefferson in 1799 if the Louisiana Purchase was constitutional, he would almost certainly have said no – but we aren’t giving the land back….
Both the second Bush administration and the actions of Republicans in Congress make it abundantly clear that the next Republican in the Oval Office is going to push toward – and probably beyond – the limits of his legal authority, no matter what Obama does. (For instance, George W Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, established by executive order, contradicted a statute outright, which Obama’s order does not.) If hypothetical president Rand Paul wants to refuse to enforce the Civil Rights Act, he’s not going to be dissuaded because Obama refused to act on immigration.