December 9, 2013
Extreme Summer Weather May Be Caused By Ice Loss In The Arctic
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
The cause of increasingly intense summer heat waves and downpours throughout the US and Europe could be due to thawing Arctic ice and snow, according to new research published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
In the study, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences looked at satellite observations of snow cover and sea-ice extent during the summer, as well as atmospheric data, and found a link between seasonal weather patterns in the mid-latitudes and the loss of both snow and sea ice.
The authors wrote that their findings “suggest that the atmospheric circulation responds differently to changes in the ice and snow extents, with a stronger response to sea-ice loss.” They added that atmospheric changes linked to the snow and ice reduction “reveal widespread upper-level height increases, weaker upper-level zonal winds at high latitudes, a more amplified upper-level pattern, and a general northward shift in the jet stream.”
That northward shift of the jet stream allows hot air to linger for a longer period of time, writes Scientific American’s David Biello. Furthermore, he said the lessening of the jet stream might have been responsible for Hurricane Sandy turning ashore and impacting New York and New Jersey, and could also be linked to extended heat waves occurring in Russia in 2010 and long-lasting rains that led to flooding in the UK last year.
“The new study, part of an effort by different governments to understand how climate change affects the frequency of extreme weather patterns, complements the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, report released in September, which said that most global warming since 1950 can be attributed to human activity,” added Sreeja VN of the International Business Times.
“According to a UN report, Arctic sea ice shrank to a record low in 2012 and its panel of scientists warned that if the trend continues then the North Pole could lose its ice and snow cover by 2050, leading to severe climate change around the globe,” VN added. “However, some other scientists… argue that weather changes could be due to other factors including changes in sea temperatures and cyclical changes, and their impact on the global climate and human population could be negligible.”