A new study has shown that shrinking Arctic sea ice caused by rising global temperatures is related to colder, snowy winter weather to Europe, America and China.
Scientists from Georgia Tech, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Columbia University collaborated for the research. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research proves the often misperceived relationship between climate change and weather patterns is extremely complex.
Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech said, “Our study demonstrates that the decrease in Arctic sea ice area is linked to changes in the Winter Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation”.
Jiping Liu, a senior research scientist in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, said, “We think the recent snowy winters could be caused by the retreating Arctic ice altering atmospheric circulation patterns by weakening westerly winds, increasing the amplitude of the jet stream and increasing the amount of moisture in the atmosphere.
Dr Liu added, “These pattern changes enhance blocking patterns that favour more frequent movement of cold air masses to middle and lower latitudes, leading to increased heavy snowfall in Europe and the Northeast and Midwest regions of the United States.”
In simpler terms, an ocean covered by less ice releases more heat and moisture, which in turn blocks normal warming patterns resulting in colder winters.
It is not the first study to highlight the link. Research from other institutions, including the Met Office, comes to the same conclusion. Other links have been made between warming effects and colder winters by studying El Nino and natural variation in the sun’s output, but the relationship with Arctic ice seems to offer more predictive capacity.
To that end, Dr Liu’s team is looking at Arctic ice projections to see whether the winter chill is forecast to grow, as there are uncertainties as to whether future winters will continue to be cold and snowy and how quickly Arctic ice will retreat in the future.
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Photo: Cate Sevilla via Flickr