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Jet Stream May be Responsible for Extreme Winter Weather Climate Change, Says Scientist

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First Posted: Feb 17, 2014 10:30 AM EST
Image taken during the recent snowstorm across the east coast of the US.
(Photo : @dailytelegraph/Twitter)

Over the past month the eastern half of the United States has experienced extreme weather, particularly the crippling snow storms which paralyzed much of the eastern seaboard this past week. Other parts of the world have also experienced extreme weather. The United Kingdom has been pummeled with non-stop rain, which caused extensive flooding. The culprit may be none other than a jet stream.

That is what Jennifer Francis, a professor at Rutgers University's Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, believes. According to Wired UK, the scientist posited the possibility that the jet stream is changing and thus affecting the weather patterns on the northern hemisphere.

Francis, who presented her findings at the annual of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago, explained, "The temperature difference between the Arctic and lower latitudes is one of the main sources of fuel for the jet stream; it's what drives the winds. And because the Arctic is warming so fast, that temperature difference is getting smaller, and so the fuel for the jet stream is getting weaker. When it gets into this pattern, those big waves tend to stay in the same place for some time."

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Wired UK explains Francis' argument that, as the jet stream weakens, the weather patterns we have been experiencing, be it constant snow in Northeastern U.S. or constant rain in the U.K., will continue. However, it does not always have to be the same weather. Francis adds that the weather could be different but it will be constant.

"It doesn't mean that every year the U.K. is going to be in a stormy pattern," she explained. "Next year you could have very dry conditions, and for that to be persistent. You can't say that flooding is going to happen more often. Next year may be dry, but whatever you get is going to last longer."

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