Researchers at Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Scientists have noticed a change in the world’s jet stream paths, and are looking at the warming Arctic as a potential cause. In recent years, the jet stream has been straying from its usual route, making longer journeys that deter from their regular pathways. This lag in the route has caused weather systems to hover over North America and Europe longer, causing severe weather in both regions.

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The straying jet stream may or may not be caused by Arctic warming, the cause of which is still hotly debated by scientists, with some leaning toward natural phenomenon, while others blame manmade greenhouse gas emissions.

When the jet stream is strong, it takes a straight path that is directly proportional to the difference in temperature between the poles and the areas around the equator. But when the jet stream hits a warmer Arctic, it gets slower and is knocked off track, possibly causing weather patterns to get stuck over an area as it meanders in a wavy pattern instead of its normal direct route. Scientists think this slowing jet stream could be causing wayward weather like the “polar vortex” or extreme flooding in the UK.

Scientists discussed the changing jet stream and its relation to the warming Arctic at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago this past weekend.


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