Nav: Home

Warm arctic means colder, snowier winters in northeastern US, study says

March 13, 2018

Scientists from Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) have linked the frequency of extreme winter weather in the United States to Arctic temperatures.

Their research was published today in Nature Communications.

"Basically, this confirms the story I've been telling for a couple of years now," said study co-author Jennifer Francis, research professor of marine and coastal sciences in Rutgers' School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. "Warm temperatures in the Arctic cause the jet stream to take these wild swings, and when it swings farther south, that causes cold air to reach farther south. These swings tend to hang around for awhile, so the weather we have in the eastern United States, whether it's cold or warm, tends to stay with us longer."

The research is timely given the extreme winter of 2017-2018, including record warm Arctic and low sea ice, record-breaking polar vortex disruption, record-breaking cold and disruptive snowfalls in the United States and Europe, severe "bomb cyclones" and costly nor'easters, said Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at AER and lead author of the study.

In their study, Cohen, Francis and AER's Karl Pfeiffer found that severe winter weather is two to four times more likely in the eastern United States when the Arctic is abnormally warm than when the Arctic is abnormally cold. Their findings also show that winters are colder in the northern latitudes of Europe and Asia when the Arctic is warm.

Paradoxically, the study shows that severe winter weather in the western United States is more likely when the Arctic is colder than normal.

The researchers found that when Arctic warming occurred near the surface, the connection to severe winter weather was weak. When the warming extended into the stratosphere, however, disruptions of the stratospheric polar vortex were likely. These disruptions usually cause severe winter weather in mid- to late winter and affect large metropolitan centers of the northeastern United States.

"Five of the past six winters have brought persistent cold to the eastern U.S. and warm, dry conditions to the West, while the Arctic has been off-the-charts warm," Francis said. "Our study suggests that this is no coincidence. Exactly how much the Arctic contributed to the severity or persistence of the pattern is still hard to pin down, but it's becoming very difficult to believe they are unrelated."
-end-


Rutgers University

Related Arctic Articles:

How the Arctic Ocean became saline
The Arctic Ocean was once a gigantic freshwater lake. Only after the land bridge between Greenland and Scotland had submerged far enough did vast quantities of salt water pour in from the Atlantic.
Previously, on Arctic warming
Arctic warming occurred in the early 20th century due to the warming phases -- 'interdecadal variability mode' -- of both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans coincided.
Are wolverines in the Arctic in the climate change crosshairs?
Will reductions in Arctic snow cover make tundra-dwelling wolverines more vulnerable to climate change than previously thought?
The Arctic Ocean is becoming more like the Atlantic
The eastern Arctic Ocean is becoming more like the Atlantic Ocean, a new study combining remote sensing and local data finds.
Solving the mystery of the Arctic's green ice
In 2011, researchers observed something that should be impossible -- a massive bloom of phytoplankton growing under Arctic sea ice in conditions that should have been far too dark for anything requiring photosynthesis to survive.
Scientists see 'new Arctic' is more prone to melting and storms
Scientists in a rare and sometimes dangerous study of the Arctic have found that the region's thinning sea ice is more prone to melting and storms, threatening its role as a moderator of the planet's climate.
My contribution to Arctic sea ice melt
Measurements reveal the relationship between individual CO2 emissions and the Arctic's shrinking summer sea ice.
Predicting when the Arctic will have an ice-free summer
For every metric ton of carbon dioxide that's emitted into the atmosphere, there is a direct correlation in the amount of Arctic sea ice that is lost, a new study shows.
Vegetation in Russian Arctic has memory
Scientists from the University of Cologne and the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Potsdam are cooperating on a research project on past climate changes in the Arctic.
Permafrost thawing below shallow Arctic lakes
New research shows permafrost below shallow Arctic lakes is thawing as a result of changing winter climate.

Related Arctic Reading:

Brave New Arctic: The Untold Story of the Melting North (Science Essentials)
by Mark C. Serreze (Author)

An insider account of how researchers unraveled the mystery of the thawing Arctic

In the 1990s, researchers in the Arctic noticed that floating summer sea ice had begun receding. This was accompanied by shifts in ocean circulation and unexpected changes in weather patterns throughout the world. The Arctic's perennially frozen ground, known as permafrost, was warming, and treeless tundra was being overtaken by shrubs. What was going on? Brave New Arctic is Mark Serreze's riveting firsthand account of how scientists from around the globe came together to find... View Details


The Arctic: Reflecting the Landscape, Wildlife, and People of the Far North
by Sven-Olof Lindblad (Author), Elizabeth Warner (Author)

Some of the most stunning photography of the Arctic ever published--before it vanishes. Inspired by the success and critical acclaim of Ice: Portraits of Vanishing Glaciers, Sven-Olof Lindblad focuses on documenting the Arctic at the most critical period for the region in history--as it faces global warming and expanding international exploration. Unlike other photography books on this region that focus on a singular aspect, The Arctic documents imagery of the wildlife, people, and landscapes.Stunning scenery, magnificent wildlife, and native cultures bring the Arctic to life in this... View Details


The Arctic Guide: Wildlife of the Far North (Princeton Field Guides)
by Sharon Chester (Author)

The Arctic Guide presents the traveler and naturalist with a portable, authoritative guide to the flora and fauna of earth's northernmost region. Featuring superb color illustrations, this one-of-a-kind book covers the complete spectrum of wildlife―more than 800 species of plants, fishes, butterflies, birds, and mammals―that inhabit the Arctic’s polar deserts, tundra, taiga, sea ice, and oceans. It can be used anywhere in the entire Holarctic region, including Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, Siberia, the Russian Far East, islands of the Bering Sea, Alaska, the Canadian... View Details


The Arctic Habitat (Introducing Habitats)
by Molly Aloian (Author), Bobbie Kalman (Author)

Introduces the characteristics of the Arctic habitat, describing the weather, the seasons, and the adaptive behaviors of the plants and animals that live there. View Details


Arctic Gambit: A Jerry Mitchell Novel
by Larry Bond (Author)

Jerry Mitchell returns in Arctic Gambit, an explosive military thriller by New York Times bestselling author Larry Bond

Jerry Mitchell, now the commodore of submarine Development Squadron Five, is dismayed when USS Toledo is reported missing in Arctic waters, close to Russian territory. The vessel is captained by his former shipmate and close friend, Lenny Berg. Eager to investigate, Jerry convinces the Navy to redirect one of his squadron’s boats to find out what happened.

It turns out Toledo was sunk just outside of Russian territorial... View Details


Arctic Dreams
by Barry Lopez (Author)

Barry Lopez's National Book Award-winning classic study of the Far North is widely considered his masterpiece.

Lopez offers a thorough examination of this obscure world-its terrain, its wildlife, its history of Eskimo natives and intrepid explorers who have arrived on their icy shores. But what turns this marvelous work of natural history into a breathtaking study of profound originality is his unique meditation on how the landscape can shape our imagination, desires, and dreams. Its prose as hauntingly pure as the land it describes, Arctic Dreams is nothing less than an... View Details


Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights
by Debbie S. Miller (Author), Jon Van Zyle (Illustrator)

Imagine a land where the sun rises at 1:58 a.m. in the summer and shines for less than four hours on a winter's day. The animals in the wilderness near Fairbanks, Alaska, witness some of the world's greatest temperature extremes and light variations ever year. At an average low of -16 degrees Fahrenheit, the winters may be unpleasantly frigid, but the light shows are always glorious!

View Details


Over in the Arctic: Where the Cold Winds Blow
by Marianne Berkes (Author), Jill Dubin (Illustrator)

Teachers and parents, here is another favorite from Marianne, who has a special talent. The kids think it is entertainment while teachers and parents think it is a great lesson about the Arctic! This book combines singing, counting, and full-body action with terrific cut-paper illustrations that kids will want to imitate. Over in the Arctic, the snow goose honks and the wolf howls. Children too will joyfully honk and howl while they count the baby animals and sing to the tune of Over in the Meadow. And they will hunt for hidden animals on each page. A big plus for educators are several pages... View Details


Look Closer: Into the Arctic: [With Transparent Pages]
by Roger Priddy (Author)

Acetate windows draw you into a wintery wonderland as you journey through magical, Arctic landscapes in this beautifully illustrated book. The acetate pages build a layered effect, and as each page is turned, a habitat full of Arctic creatures is revealed. Journey through the Arctic forest, blustery tundra, and out into the ocean to meet polar bears, caribou, whales, and more interesting wildlife. View Details


Arctic Fox (A Day in the Life: Polar Animals)
by Katie Marsico (Author)

Explore the polar region, one of the most extreme environments on Earth, by following an Arctic fox through its day as it eats, sleeps, and cares for its young. Arctic Fox, by Katie Marsico, introduces readers to the behaviors, traits, and habitat of this fascinating animal with supportive text features including a labeled body map of the fox and further resources. With its accessible text and fast facts, this book is sure to captivate young animal lovers! View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

The Person You Become
Over the course of our lives, we shed parts of our old selves, embrace new ones, and redefine who we are. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the experiences that shape the person we become. Guests include aerobatics pilot and public speaker Janine Shepherd, writers Roxane Gay and Taiye Selasi, activist Jackson Bird, and fashion executive Kaustav Dey.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#478 She Has Her Mother's Laugh
What does heredity really mean? Carl Zimmer would argue it's more than your genes along. In "She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Power, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity", Zimmer covers the history of genetics and what kinship and heredity really mean when we're discovering how to alter our own DNA, and, potentially, the DNA of our children.