Prolonged cold snaps on the East Coast, a severe drought in California, and frozen mornings in the South all have something in common--the atmospheric jet stream that transports weather systems has taken to meandering all over North America. Climate scientist Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., and her colleagues link that wavy jet stream to a warming Arctic, where climate changes near the top of the world are happening faster than in Earth's middle latitudes.
"The real story is how persistent the pattern has been. It's been this way nearly continually since December 2013: warm in the West; cold in the East," Francis explains. "We think with the warming Arctic these types of very wavy patterns, although probably not in the same locations, will happen more often in the future."
This research has been front and center since the Hurricane Sandy disaster, when the wavy jet stream steered the storm on its sharp left turn and smack into the Jersey Shore. Francis and other researchers say the jet stream's configuration was a key ingredient in the monster storm.
Very wavy jet-stream patterns have been occurring more often since the 1990s, Francis asserts, and now are affecting weather around the Northern Hemisphere. For instance, the mid-February cold snap that saw millions of people waking up to below-zero and single-digit temperatures might not be as deep as some...