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Dueling Jet Streams a Likely Cause of Extreme Weather Fluctuations


The  thermometer hit 94 degrees in McGrath, Alaska on June 17—a temperature more typical for Miami, which is located 4,200 miles closer to the equator. In May, President Obama declared parts of Alaska a disaster area due to extreme flooding. While the largest state in the U.S. must cope with bizarre weather, it is not alone. Parts of Canada and major swathes of Europe have also been punished with extreme flooding. Price tags for the high waters in Europe have already reached between $3.93 and $7.59 billion, and the damage is still mounting. In Calgary, Canada, massive downpours have forced the evacuation of some 75,000 people.


The fault for this extreme weather, according to meteorologists, is mainly due to a natural occurrence seen approximately every ten years—dual jet streams. A jet stream, according to NOAA, is “a narrow band of strong wind in the upper atmosphere.” In the warmer months, it is most common to have just one jet stream, but this summer there are two competing streams circling over the northern hemisphere.  


According to John Galvin of Popular Mechanics: “With a typical jet stream, you see colder temperatures north of them, and warmer temperatures south of them. With two streams, the same effect is appearing, but in weird ways. McGrath is located just south of the curious Arctic jet stream—explaining those high temps—and Calgary is located just north of the central jet stream.”


This summer, due to the dueling jet streams, moisture from the Gulf of Mexico is being channeled north.  Warmer ocean temperatures, an impact of a warming climate, could result in increased moisture drawn into the atmosphere, fueling storm systems like those that have impacted Europe, Alaska, and Calgary.  


While computer models are only reliable for about eight or nine days out, John Nielsen-Gammon, a professor of atmospheric science at Texas A&M university says that as long as the dual jet streams last, people can expect to see “more of these large variations in temperature and rainfall from place to place.”


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