Arctic Sea Ice Decline Linked To Colder, Snowier Northern Winters

lake tahoe sunrise in winter photoJodi Womack/CC BY 2.0

Backing up research coming out of Germany, a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows a relationship between melting Arctic ice and outbreaks of colder than usual weather and above-normal snowfall in the Northern Hemisphere.

The scientists found that unusually snowy winters like those of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 were spurred on by changes in atmospheric circulation and increases in atmospheric water vapor, which are both linked with melting Arctic sea ice in the summer and autumn.

Georgia Tech's Jiping Liu:

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. These pattern changes enhance blocking patterns that favor 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. (Science Daily)

On a similar not, back in 2010, Vladimir Petoukhov of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said, regarding his research of the winters of 2008-2009 and 2005-2006:

Our simulations reveal a rather pronounced nonlinear response of air temperatures and winds to the changes of sea ice cover. It ranges from warming to cooling to warming again, as sea ice decreases. ... Whoever thinks that the shrinking of some far away sea ice won't bother him could be wrong. There are complex teleconnections in the climate system.

Summing up, Jeff Masters from Weather Underground reminds us:

As the climate continues to warm we should expect an increase in heavy snow events for a few decades, until the climate grows so warm that we pass the point where it's too warm for it to snow heavily.

Tags: Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects


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