KSDK - Dr. Jennifer Francis from Rutgers University was featured earlier this evening on NBC's "Our Year of Extremes: Did Climate Change Hit Home?"
Her name may not be familiar, but her work has been quoted on KSDK many times. Dr. Francis has been able to show that the jet stream is slowing down which, in turn, has made significant contributions to events like the record heat and drought across North America two years ago and the cold weather we had this past winter.
Why? Because the arctic is warming so fast that the temperature disparity between the coldest latitudes and the warmer mid latitudes of the northern hemisphere, which drives the jet, is decreasing. This leads to a highly amplified, slow moving jet stream which causes cold outbreaks to be colder, warm outbreaks to be warmer and areas seeing precipitation to get more over a longer period of time.
"We know that when those waves get larger they tend to move more slowly and so the weather they create is also moving more slowly creating more persistent weather patterns," she said.
Francis is among the vast majority of climate scientists worldwide, including those from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change whose report was released last week along with a stern warning to all nations that the time to respond to global warming is running out.
And she says it's not just the scientists who are concerned.
"I think people are realizing that climate change is not something that is going to be this slow warming that happens to their grandchildren. It's happening now," she said.
Dr. Francis talked via Skype to First Alert Meteorologist Mike Roberts in March. Watch their conversation in its entirely above.