Similar to team-assembling montages in action films, the American Association for the Advancement of Science comes together once a year to discuss developments and discoveries in the field of science, pouring each other green tea and playing mirthful pranks on the younger PhDs. Predictably, the topic of climate change was put on display this year, as 84% of AAAS members believe that humans are causing global warming.
The latest discovery to be discussed at the conference this year, which took place in Chicago over the weekend, is that the jet stream that determines the weather over North America and Europe is now taking a longer, less predictable path. You may be familiar with the term jet stream from camping out at LaGuardia after a canceled flight—this year saw the highest number of cancellations in 25 years—but what exactly is it?
Jet streams are typically found about 30,000 feet up in the atmosphere and are formed through significant temperature differences between conflicting air masses.
The ribbons of strong winds influence global weather patterns and their positioning helps meteorologists to forecast the weather.
According to research performed by Professor Jennifer Francis at Rutgers University, this newly meandering jet stream is likely to continue taking a longer time to pass over Europe and North America. As temperatures in the Arctic warm, the jet stream slows down and finds difficulty pushing over obstacles in the atmosphere. Francis claims this year's bitter winter is a result of this, and that in future, "We can expect more of the same and we can expect it to happen more frequently."
Dismal weather aside, this may be the least of our worries. Another panel at the AAAS conference revealed that, in a survey of 2,200 Americans, a whopping 26% did not know that the Earth revolves around the sun, and fewer than half know that humans evolved from an earlier species of animals. We may need Bill Nye more than we thought.