Browning Newsletter: The Cold of Winter
Comment of the Day

January 30 2014

Commentary by David Fuller

Browning Newsletter: The Cold of Winter

My thanks to Alex Seagle for this fascinating and superbly illustrated publication by Elizabeth Browning Garriss, published by Browning Media.

 In the first week of December, Browning Newsletter subscribers received an alert.

“Prepare for another blast of cold starting in mid-December. Another Russian volcano erupted. 

On December 2, Mount Sheveluch on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula began erupting. By the next day, Russian vol­canologists were issuing RED alerts for air traffic as the plume reached 10 km (6 miles) high. It has since dropped to 5 –6 km (3 miles) high. . . . The impact of the early December eruption of Mt. Sheveluch will be felt in the Midwest and the Northeast in mid-and –late December. Meanwhile, some smaller eruptions of Kamchatka vol­canoes are feeding Pacific storms.” 

Consider this blast from Russia the weather equivalent of a “cold war”. When Russian volcanoes are large enough, they alter Arctic air currents and aim them at the US. 

The Arctic air mass of 2013 was the coldest on record – allowing the amount of Arctic sea ice to grow by 60%. During win­tertime, the polar air mass expands. Winds determine how much cold air escapes and where it goes. 

If a volcano eruption is large enough, it can affect these winds. A large eruption enters the stratosphere, a quiet layer of air, where the ash and debris can linger for years. The ash blocks out incoming sun­light, which cools the surface below. At the same time, chemical aerosols (solid and liquid particles) collect water and form gi­gantic clouds that also block out sunlight. As the dim air cools, it changes pressure, which, in turn, changes wind patterns. ­

Given the prevailing global air patterns, most of the debris from Arctic volcanos remains in the Arctic air mass. Some of this is the lingering debris from the 2011 eruptions of Iceland’s Mt. Grimsvótn and Russia’s Mt. Sheveluch. More recently, several more Russian volcanoes including Sheveluch and Mt. Klyuchevskoy have exploded with small and medium-sized eruptions. The Arctic air mass has been se­verely cooled. No wonder it has produced such a chilly December.

David Fuller's view

Here is the full issue of The Browning Newsletter.

Climate is a controversial topic, you may have observed, and emails over the years have confirmed the popularity of Elizabeth Browning Garriss, who tells us what is really going on.

One of the things I like about her is that she never tries to terrify or condition us, and she has a subtle sense of humour.  Here is an example from the concluding News Notes:

The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change keeps be­ing hit by irony. An unusually harsh and frigid winter   in the Northern Hemisphere chilled the December 209 Copenhagen Conference that discussed global             warming. This year’s Warsaw Conference focused on the growing number of extreme weather events. Unfortunately, for the organizers, 2013 was not only low on extreme events; it set records for quiet weather. In just the US, we saw the following records:

Extreme Heat − The number of 100 ˚F (37.7˚C) days is the lowest in about 100 years of records.

Hurricanes – The 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season was the 6th quietest season on record, with only 2 hurricanes, neither of which lasted a full day or reached even a Category 2 level of strength. The ACE ( Accumulated Cyclone Energy) of the season was 67% below normal. This is the longest pe­riod (8 years) since the Civil War Era without a major hur­ricane strike in the US (i.e., category 3, 4 or 5).

Tornadoes – 2013 had the fewest number of torna­does on record, 15% lower than the previous quiet year. This spring was too cool to generate many storms.

Whatever one's views on the subject of climate change, The Browning Newsletter is an informative read.

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