January 18, 2013 - PLANET EARTH - Sudden stratospheric warming has split the polar vortex in two. The polar vortex, which forms and deepens as the atmosphere loses heat to space in the darkness of the long Arctic winter night, was split in two by massive heating from below. A series of intense storms in the far north Pacific intensified a very long wave in the lower atmosphere. Energy on that planet sized wave went upwards from the lower atmosphere around the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau and broke into the stratosphere, causing major sudden warming. It rapidly reversed the strong cyclonic winds in the stratosphere around the pole, creating a central dome, breaking the vortex into two smaller vortices. We can see the splitting by making a map of the heights a weather balloon rises to to reach the very low atmospheric pressure of 50 mb. A standard atmosphere is 1013mb.
|The polar vortex was intact at 50 millibars (heights in m) on January 1 to 3. NOAA.|
|The polar vortex had broken in two (50millibar heights in m) on January 10 to 13. NOAA.|
|The dynamical activity in recent winters reveals that the frequency of MWs (Major Warmings) in the Arctic is increasing (e.g. Charlton Perez et al., 2008)...|
|Animation of temperature anomalies at the 30mb pressure surface in the |
stratosphere shows the magnitude of this massive event.
The swell will generate massive waves on the north and west shores of the Hawaiian Islands. NOAA's outstanding surf forecaster, Pat Caldwell is forecasting 24 foot wave face heights without the amplifying effects of refraction by the sea floor. In surf spots refraction can double these wave heights. 50 foot wave faces are possible on Friday at outer reefs on Kauai and Oahu.
|Ocean prediction center.|
|U.S. Navy WWIII model.|