Arctic melting could lead to harsher European winters

Friday 31st Oct 2014 by theWeather Club

The Arctic is one of the fastest warming regions of the planet, and scientists have warned that this area could be free of ice by the summer of 2050. Previous work has indicated that this could result in severe winters in northeastern parts of North America but new research now indicates this could also have major implications for parts of Eurasia.

New work published in Nature Geoscience has found that distinct patterns of winds and pressure systems which can transport cold air south, creating severe winters in Eurasia, can be linked to a decline in Arctic sea ice. This would mean than parts of Europe and Asia are twice as likely to experience harsh winter due to a reduction in arctic ice, particularly in the Barents-Kara Sea.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo ran 200 different simulations of global atmospheric circulation forward into the 21st century to explore the impacts. They found that as sea ice declined, persistent circulation patterns that transport of cold air further south - blocking high pressure systems - developed. Although the findings are still provisional, the results support earlier studies.

Peter Wadhams, who heads the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge in the UK, said: “Annual average global temperatures continue to rise, but the distribution of temperature through the year is giving us more extremes... As ice continues to retreat, we can expect these weather extremes to continue to occur, and maybe worsen.”

It is a frequent misconception that global warming will bring warmer temperatures to all parts of the globe, but this is not the case; more extreme weather is to be expected. Indeed, over the past decade there have been frequent severe winters in parts of Europe.

Despite a slow-down in the mean global surface warming since 2000, the Arctic has continued to warm at a rapid rate – and this will have knock-on effects globally.

The research can be found here: http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo2277.html

Related article: http://www.theweatherclub.org.uk/news/article/2014-arctic-sea-ice-minimum-sixth-lowest-on-record