Land and Water lag on Climate
Next, stop in understanding better our complex climate system on earth we need to look at how water and land interact with climate changes.
First, we will start with land, as we know land comes in all shapes and sizes from islands to continents, or sea level coastlines to high elevated mountains and those flatlands in between. This is very important to know, the first reason this is important is that each place will have it’s own climate pattern, for example islands being surrounded by water will be impacted as the water will limit the temperaturecontrast that the island may see along with that there will also be more precipitation for islands due to the water being so close. Now, take a coastal city that is near sea level, here again the temperature contrast will be smaller and higher amounts of precipitation due to the proximity of the water. The third location is an interior land mass that is surrounded by land, here this location will see larger temperature contrast and a greater fluctuation in precipitation as well. Lastly, the higher elevated locations, they will have for the most part smaller temperature contrast along with lower precipitation amounts as well. So as you can see what type of land area you live by has a huge impact on your climate pattern.
Secondly, we will now take a look at how water impacts climate as well, for example we know that we have hot water and cold water, so now let’s examine hot water, for this we will take a look at a warm ocean current, like the Gulf Stream, this warm ocean current transports warm water poleward, this warm water, however keeps the air temperatures more constant over the current and also provides more upward lift allowing for more precipitation to present itself over the warm current, this is one reason why hurricanes and also the major storms that go up the Eastern United States get stronger is because of this warm ocean current, so as you can see warm ocean currents impact climate patterns as well. Now, on to the cold ocean currents and how they can impact the climate of an area, let’s take the California current that travels down the West Coast of the United States, here this current also keeps temperatures more consistent, also allows for consistent precipitation patterns, this is one factor in the climate of the Western United States, but people will say well Washington gets lots of rain, yes that is correct, however the reason is more favorable to heavy rainfall due to the Cascade Mountains being close and providing another weather feature to the region called orographic lift.
Global Ice Coverage and Climate
Now, on to the Ice and its impact on climate, yes the poles due play a major role in our climate here on planet earth. When we look at the poles, we have to think about how the ice works, during the summer months, the ice coverage decreases in size due to the heating, while in the winter months, the ice increases in size, due to the cooler temps. However, there is more to the ice than just that, for example when the earth enters a warming phase of the climate, we tend to see longer periods of increase ice melt, lasting more months out of the year and less months of ice making, this could relate to what we were seeing in the early 1980’s-2000’s when ice levels were reaching extreme low levels, however now in the 2010’s we are seeing ice coverage not decrease as much due to cooler weather which is providing longer periods of ice making weather and less melting time, this was also true in the 1970’s as well. Nowunderstanding that, let’s look at how this can play a huge impact in climate patterns, let’s start by looking at a warming phase, when we are seeing less ice coverage, this can lead to increased sea levels, due to the extra water being transported back into the oceans, another factor that can lead to this over the Pacific is when the Pacific Decadal Oscillation favors a warmer period, this is pushing a rise in sea surface temps also forcing warmer temps poleward helping to melt more of the ice from below as well. So now onto how this warming can impact the United States, first the warmer waters favor the sub-tropical Pacific High to push further northward, that is huge, because now with this high becoming a tad bit further north, the weather patterns begin to alter, we see stronger high pressure centers over the Western US, which cause the Western US to see larger droughts, while the moisture increases into Alaska, then the moisture makes a turn around the Western US high pressure and flows right through the Northern Plains and into the Gulf Coast before making a turn back along the Eastern US, setting the stage for longer periods of heavy rainfall and even snowfall to impact the areas.
Now, on to the cold period or the time of ice making in the polar region, the expansion of this ice is assisted by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation now favoring a colder period, meaning the Pacific waters are cooling below average, this in return leads to ice expansion and dropping sea levels due to more being placed back into ice, also this pushes that sub-tropical high pressure, the Pacific High further southward.
This now allows for a more zonal type pattern to impact the United States, this is when we start to see more storms arrive into the Pacific Northwest, and then running through the Plains and through the Great Lakes and into the Northeast, this type of weather pattern becomes more favorable. This in return can lead to periods of drought now over the Southeastern United States, this can also lead to ice making its way further southward for longer period of times, if strong enough it could become an Ice Age, but most recently noted has been these past few winters such as the 2012-13 and 2013-14 winters, we have seen the ice line make it all the way to the Gulf Coast, only for a few days, but in some instances that is above the climate average, where places in the Northern Plains and the Great Lakes seen ice cover for extra months leading to longer cool periods and less warm periods during the year. If you look at the setup for the 2014-15 winter it is still looking very similar, this would mean that we are setting the stage for a third consecutive period of this, so we could see the ice line settle into the Gulf Coast region maybe for a week or two now instead of a few days and the ice on the Great Lakes and the Northern Plains stay around even later getting close to summer before it melts, making for less warming periods.
There is a lot more into this, but I just wanted to give a basic understanding to how the Polar Ice can be a crucial climate control factor for the rest of the globe.