Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal  issues. Our student Larisa Pechenyy makes this connection here…

The news entitled, “From Heat Wave to Snow Storms, March Goes to Extremes” was reported by Climate central which researches and reports the impact and science of climate change in their March 19, 2013 online news. The news relates to the WRE domain of hydrology and the specific issue of the occurrence and magnitude of storm events. In brief, this news article reports on new research data that suggests the melting of arctic ice is effecting the change in the jet stream and ultimately the change in storm systems. Research has been done in trying to better understand why temperatures over much of the US within just one year have seen most extreme conditions. Chicago on March 19th 2013 was a chilly 25 degrees F, yet just a year ago it was 85 degrees. This unusual weather pattern The article went on to show how over the past years as we all know there has been an increased melting of the earth’s arctic ice, and that pollutants in the atmosphere cause blocking  patterns and are altering weather patterns across the US and Far north.  With less ice than ever the temperature balance is shifted and this causes a change in the jet stream. This intern for the northern latitudes means colder and stormier winters. With the melting of sea ice, more of the sun’s heat is absorbed by darker ocean water and these causes water temperatures to go up. In fall this additional heat gets released into the atmosphere as ice reforms’. This added heat in the northern multitudes is what changes weather patterns through Arctic Amplification. It relates to economics because our storm systems are not designed for the potential storm systems and run off from more extreme storms. If this pattern and idea is future supported by data and other research this would mean a necessary upgrade to storm management to much of the affected area and that would cost a fortune. Based on what I know about WRE the news story is accurately reporting on an important WRE issue. Temperature fluctuation has significant effects on our society, from agricultural planning and growing seasons, to how we here in New York State manage the winter season. The article does not mention supporting data or other research that has been done and how their results have varied. The last sentence in the article that says the modeling system does not accurately reflect the blocking pattern in the present or give fair assumption of the future patters, which makes me question its credibility in making earlier claims.

Freedman’s article on “Major storm accelerated arctic sea ice loss in 2012, study finds” further supported this argument by addressing the hydrology of the stratification of ocean water and the denser saltier ocean water is causing more storm systems in the regions of melting ice as well as causing further melting by the warmed surface water due to the darker melted water. Cornell scientists said the “negative Arctic oscillation conditions are associated with higher pressure in the Arctic and a weakened polar vortex. A weakened jet stream is characterized by larger-amplitude meanders in its trajectory and a reduction in the wave speed of those meanders” (Ju).

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Figure 1 – Temperatures over much of the US within just one year have seen most extreme conditions. Chicago on March 19th 2013 was a chilly 25 degrees F, yet just a year ago it was 85 degrees. This unusual and extremely drastic, research points to melting arctic ice as the cause that is shifting the jet steam and throwing the country into confusion.

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Figure 2 – “Negative Arctic Oscillation conditions are associated with higher pressure in the Arctic and a weakened polar vortex (yellow arrows). A weakened jet stream (black arrows) is characterized by larger-amplitude meanders in its trajectory and a reduction in the wave speed of those meanders.” (Ju)

Water resources engineering is considered an interdisciplinary field involving the management of hydrologic and hydraulic systems to reduce any adverse impacts and maximize beneficial impacts. The hydrology storm event issue in this news story impacts the broader WRE context areas of economics and the environment both on a local and global scale. Crops boom early or have late season and areas that are dominant in a particular crop, if hit with extreme cold after early bloom, can lose entire crops and cause financial hardships. That the ripples down to the consumers and entire public. In municipal sectors increased storms seasons means we need to spend more on maintenance from snow plows to salt and then to being able to manage storm water which relates to hydraulic engineering. Weather fluctuation also affects the working season for seasonal jobs, in NY State a large work force. For those of us in Syracuse who hate winter weather it would make us disappointed and needing to cope with winter weather for a while longer, needing to shovel more snow and longer.  National Geographic article “Food for Thought” supports this impact in the context of the economy as it says “climate change will affect food processing, storage, and transportation—industries that require an increasing amount of expensive water and energy as global demand rises—leading to higher food prices” (Sanchez). Thus as supported by this article the climate change that is described resulting from the shifting of the jet stream cause abnormal weather and precipitation condition for crops and cost are increased for food, which effects everyone’s pocket one way or another when we go to buy groceries.

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