MSU scientist examines 2016 record high temperatures

Jan 19, 2017

Nathan Moore's research in climate change has taken him to such places as China, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the Amazon. Moore is an assistant professor at MSU's College of Environmental and Resource Sciences. He examines climate change a little closer to home in a conversation with WKAR Morning Edition host Brooke Allen.

Nathan: Overall for the last 140 years or so, where we've had a good amount of measurement, we've seen that the global temperature has been gradually increasing. And that's consistent with the physics of putting, basically, a blanket on the atmosphere.  And that blanket is the CO2 layer that everyone hears about - the greenhouse gasses

Brooke: It's actually quite warm right now at the North Pole.

Nathan: It is. It's about 20 degrees centigrade or about 30 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it normally is, which is significantly warmer. And that warm pattern is associated with a pattern called "arctic amplification" . I encourage people to go and Google that, because it shows that if we've got a warmer arctic, there's less of a temperature difference between the poles and the warmer regions at the tropics. And if there's not much of a temperature difference, there's not much of a jet stream. The jet stream tends to break down and you get wavier patterns - pulses of much warmer air and much colder air. Arctic air will sneak down here as we saw a couple weeks ago...

Brooke: When it was super cold. We're in January...what do you think this winter is shaping up to be?

Nathan: That's harder to do. As you know weather forecasts are pretty tough. One of the things we can look at is the stratosphere. That's the air layer above the troposphere. And that tends to steer weather. I think we'll see some more cold pulses. But we'll see some weather like this down the road when the temperatures are in the upper thirties and maybe even forties.

Brooke: Are we going to see extremely hot summers then?

Nathan: In general, we are seeing a warming trend. Not a very strong one here in Michigan - but the growing season has actually gotten longer by about two weeks. That's good news if you're a farmer. We're in sort of a weak La Nina phase right now. We should be in the other direction, but we're not seeing it. I would say 2017 will not be significantly warmer than 2016.

Brooke: So 2016 will probably stay the warmest year on record, but we'll just have to see...

Nathan: Forecasts are often wrong.