Should anthropogenic warming lead to more frequent cold air outbreaks over the northeastern U.S.?

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Robert Nicholas, Pennsylvania State University Main Campus, University Park, PA, United States
For the northeastern United States, Winter 2013-14 was the coldest winter since the late 1970s and perhaps the coldest on record relative to prevailing climatic conditions. Frequent snowstorms and cold air outbreaks led to considerable press coverage and heated scholarly debate over the possible role of anthropogenic climate change in modulating wintertime variability in the northern hemisphere polar jet. While mechanisms have been proposed, to date, the observational record offers no definitive evidence for such a relationship, nor does it conclusively exclude one. To further explore this question, we employ a large, initial conditions ensemble of the Community Earth System Model forced with historical and RCP8.5 emissions. The ensemble effectively samples internal variability in the climate system and is used to assess the potential for forced changes in polar jet variability and the frequency of cold air outbreaks over the northeastern U.S. with projected increases in global mean temperature during the 21st century.