Extreme weather links to warmer Arctic, researchers say

March 16, 2018
“This winter is a great example of what we can expect from climate change.”

With North America and Europe experiencing bitter cold snaps and heavy snowfall over the past winter, climate scientists have recorded an exceptionally warm season in the Arctic Circle. Researchers say there is a strong link between the climate crisis marked by the Arctic temperature rises and extreme winter weather events.

“This winter is a great example of what we can expect from climate change,” Judah Cohen, a climate scientist at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, told the Guardian. “In the US, we had the ‘bomb cyclone’ in January, followed by July-like warm weather in February that I’d never seen before.

“And now we’ve had a parade of powerful winter storms ... It’s mind boggling.”

Cohen’s research was published by Nature Communications on March 13 just as the US east coast was hit by its third severe snowstorm in 10 days. CNN noted the study “found that major winter storms were two to four times more likely when the Arctic is abnormally warm, compared to when it was abnormally cold”.

The latest severe weather followed some of the longest-lasting warm weather ever recorded in the Arctic Circle in the month of February, with more than 60 hours of above-freezing temperatures logged.

Common Dreams reported that scientists had previously only observed the temperature climbing above freezing twice in February, both for short periods of time. 

The new research suggests that the polar vortex has been disrupted by the warming of the globe. Warming temperatures have weakened the low pressure system’s flow, climate scientists say, causing it to drift southward from the polar region — and to bring cold Arctic air along with it.

[Reprinted from Common Dreams.]

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