The rise of extreme weather

Take a closer look at the reasons why our planet is experiencing an increase in extreme weather events.

Devastating floods have destroyed towns in Pakistan and the United States.
Japan has experienced the worst heat wave in 150 years, and Europe just had its hottest summer on record. The summer of 2022 was by all means a summer of extremes. And while we have always had wild weather, the frequency is increasing. And unfortunately, many scientists believe that this summer's extreme weather indicates what the weather will be like in the future.
Many theories suggest that the extreme weather we've had this summer is linked to a weakening of the jet streams, and specifically the northern polar jet stream.

As we talked about in the second video about wind, jet streams are these upper atmospheric winds that are powerful enough to steer the underlying weather systems.

In the coming years, however, there’s a good evidence that the jet stream will weaken. Why is that and why is it important?

The jet stream gets its power from the polar air masses and the tropical air masses. The latest figures indicate that temperatures are rising four times faster in the Arctic regions compared to the rest of the world.

With a weakening temperature difference, the jet stream is also weakening. This causes the wavelike pattern of the polar front to get a bigger amplitude. So instead of a west east going weather pattern, we will get a slower north south going movement of the weather systems.

This has two effects. One, weather systems can remain stuck in the same place for longer periods. So instead of having rain for a few hours or a day, the weather system stay for days or weeks, leading to prolonged rain or heat waves. Also, when the waves get bigger in extent, this means that warm air travels further north and colder air penetrates further south.

This means more unusual weather conditions. So, for instance, you bring cold air from the Arctic all the way down to Texas where they are not used to that kind of weather.

There are studies that suggest that these wave patterns will be more dominating in the future due to climate change, but we need more research to confirm this.
Nonetheless, most scientists agree that the weather in our near future will contain more 100 years events and that the temperature records will continue to be broken. And there is no doubt that the demand for understanding the weather will continue to be there.

Course overview

Modules: 5
Completion time
Completion time: 25 minutes
Difficulty level
Difficulty level: Intermediate