Abrupt Climate Change and the Westerlies – P. Mayewski

Two circular bands of winds called the westerlies are being changed by human-caused global warming. The consequences from these changes could become quite large and come on suddenly – quite the surprise for anyone who still thinks climate change is a future “slow” problem.

In the words of Paul Mayewski, director of the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, these and associated climate changes are “just not part of a natural cycle.” From his perspective, an abrupt climate change has also just taken place – in the Arctic. And more could be on the way at the other side of the world.

Mayewski’s research has taken him to remote corners of the globe like the Himalayas and Antarctica. And his work has covered a number of interdisciplinary climate topics, not the least of which is abrupt climate change. I spoke to him last week about some of his latest published findings which show that the austral westerly winds have changed rapidly before, and that regional-scale climate has also rapidly changed as a result.¹ One of the most surprising aspects of his findings is that these significant changes have happened in as little as one year.

Climate Watch – Nov. 2013