Research Article

Atmospheric blocking as a traffic jam in the jet stream

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Science  06 Jul 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6397, pp. 42-47
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat0721

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A traffic jam of air

Persistent meandering of the jet stream can cause atmospheric blocking of prevailing eastward winds and result in weather extremes such as heat waves in the midlatitudes. Nakamura and Huang interpret the poorly understood origins of these systems as the meteorological equivalents of traffic congestion on a highway and show how they can be described by analogous mathematical theory. Climate change may affect the frequency of blocking as well as its geographic distribution, reflecting a simultaneous shift in the structure of the stationary atmospheric waves and the regional capacity of the jet stream.

Science, this issue p. 42