Last weekend, a powerful fall storm barreled across Atlantic Canada.
Round 2 rolled in on Tuesday and the next windy wallop is due in by Friday night. The other day, a man in the grocery store asked me what we did to deserve all this wind and rain.
If you’re looking for a scapegoat, I guess you could blame the jet stream.
The jet stream is a fast flowing, relatively narrow current of air in the atmosphere about 11 kilometres above the surface of the Earth.
Jet streams play a key role in determining the weather because they usually separate colder air and warmer air. When the jet stream is south of us, cold air is allowed to drain down from the north. When it is to our north, warm air floods up from the south and when it’s overhead, the weather is unsettled, to say the least. Right now, the elusive jet stream stretches across central New Brunswick.
The jet stream acts like a highway in the upper atmosphere – along which weather systems travel. When a weather system rides on the jet stream it gets a boost of energy. Because air temperature influences jet streams, they are more active in the winter when there are wider ranges of temperatures between the competing arctic and tropic air masses.
Jet streams are not new. While many credit bomber pilots flying missions during the Second World War for discovering and understanding jet streams, they were identified and understood before that. Wiley Post, an American pilot and the first to fly solo around the world in 1933, contributed to our knowledge of these forces of nature. He developed a pressurized suit to fly higher in the atmosphere and noted the differences in pressure and wind speed at various levels. This set the stage for the understanding of the jet stream and pressurized flight.
By the way, we are not the only planet with jet streams – Jupiter and Saturn have jet streams as well.