The Grand Portage Reservation is at the northeastern tip of Minnesota. The Air Quality Program has many ongoing projects in order to maintain healthy indoor and outdoor air. These projects include monitoring for regional haze and particulate matter, indoor air quality, invasive plant removal, public outreach, environmental education, alternative energy, and climate change.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why The Warming Arctic Will Affect Our Weather In The Continental US

The arctic region of our planet is warming much faster than more temperate zones, and this has caused the polar icecap to melt faster than even most scientists had predicted only a few years ago. This summer has seen the lowest amount of ice ever recorded and most of what remains is first and second year ice not the thick, multi-year ice that had previously made up much of the icecap. The lack of ice allows the dark water to absorb heat and to radiate it back to the surrounding land, creating a positive feedback. The warmer air has the effect of slowing down the circumpolar jet stream which can cause weather systems far south to stall and create havoc. Here is climate scientist Jennifer Francis of Rutgers:

The heating and cooling of Arctic seawater has been affecting the jet stream -- the river of air that flows from west to east high above the Earth’s surface -- and has slowed it down, Francis said. The jet stream controls the formation and movement of storm systems, so when its movement slows, weather conditions persist for longer periods of time over the same area. They get “stuck.”
“If you’re in a nice dry pattern with sunny skies, it's great if it lasts for a few days. But If it lasts for a few weeks, well then you’re starting to talk about a drought,” Francis said. “If you have a rainy pattern and it hangs around for a long time, then that becomes a situation that could lead to flooding.”
Arctic warming will influence weather to the south during the late fall and winter. While Francis said it would probably result in severe weather this winter, it was impossible to predict when and where those events would occur.
 Combine this with the budding El Nino and we could be in for a very interesting winter.

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