Last year’s cold and snowy winter directly connected to warmer Arctic new research reveals
By Stephen Leahy
OSLO, 15 June 2010 (IPS)
Last winter’s big snowfall and cold temperatures in the eastern United States and Europe were likely caused by the loss of Arctic sea ice, researchers concluded at the International Polar Year Oslo Science Conference in Norway in June.
Climate change has warmed the entire Arctic region, melting 2.5 million square kilometres of sea ice, and that, paradoxically, is producing colder and snowier winters for Europe, Asia and parts of North America.
“The exceptional cold and snowy winter of 2009-2010 in Europe, eastern Asia and eastern North America is connected to unique physical processes in the Arctic,” said James Overland of the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in the United States.
“In future, cold and snowy winters will be the rule rather than the exception” in these regions, Overland told IPS.
[[UPDATE Dec 29 2010 – Winter of 2010-11 appears to follow same pattern, see new post with northern hemisphere temp map for 20 Dec: Arctic Hothouse Turns Europe into an Icebox]]
Scientists have been surprised by the rapid warming of the Arctic, where annual temperatures have increased two to three times faster than the global average. In one part of the Arctic, over the Barents and Karas Seas north of Scandinavia, average annual temperatures are now 10 degrees C higher than they were in 1990.
Overland explains the warming of the Arctic as the result of a combination of climate change, natural variability, loss of sea ice reflectivity, ocean heat storage and changing wind patterns, which has disrupted the stability of the Arctic climate system. In just 30 years, all that extra heat has shrunk the Arctic’s thick blanket of ice by 2.5 million square kilometres – an area equivalent to more than one quarter the size of the continental U.S.
The changes in the Arctic are now irreversible, he said. Continue reading