Professor Rachel White on CBC's Planet Wonder: All about the jet stream

May 20, 2023
Rachel White and Johanna Wagstaffe at Pitt River on CBC's Planet Wonder

Within the past few years, Vancouverites have experienced more intense and frequent extreme weather events. Two summers ago, BC was hit with a catastrophic heat wave, which was followed by a series of atmospheric rivers in the Fall of 2021. Many of us remember the scorching heat and the highway closures due to flooding, but how do these weather extremes develop? 


During an interview for CBC's Planet Wonder series, Dept. of Earth Oceans and Atmospheric Sciences professor, Dr. Rachel White recently explained how such weather events are formed and carried by the atmosphere’s jet streams. While standing in the Pitt River, Dr. White used her surroundings to describe the jet stream, comparing storm systems to the eddies created in the meandering river. The series host and CBC meteorologist, Johanna Wagstaffe, used further visual aids including a turntable and water bath to explain how temperature gradients between the poles and the equator on our spinning planet act to create the jet stream. By the end of the 25 minute episode, viewers are walked through 1. How the jet stream is formed, 2. How it creates extreme weather events felt on Earth’s surface, and 3. How climate change is impacting the jet stream. To watch Rachel White’s feature head to Season 1, Episode 7 ‘What’s going on up there to make weather down here so extreme’.