By Joe Romm on Feb 28, 2012 at 1:22 pm
A new study led by the Georgia Institute of Technology provides further evidence of a relationship between melting ice in the Arctic regions and widespread cold outbreaks in the Northern Hemisphere….
Since the level of Arctic sea ice set a new record low in 2007, significantly above-normal winter snow cover has been seen in large parts of the northern United States, northwestern and central Europe, and northern and central China. During the winters of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, the Northern Hemisphere measured its second and third largest snow cover levels on record.
“Our study demonstrates that the decrease in Arctic sea ice area is linked to changes in the winter Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation,” said Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech. “The circulation changes result in more frequent episodes of atmospheric blocking patterns, which lead to increased cold surges and snow over large parts of the northern continents.”
That’s from the news release of an NASA- and NSF-funded study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Impact of declining Arctic sea ice on winter snowfall.”
I think Curry’s use of the phrase “cold surges” is important. Although there have definitely been some major cold blasts, our winters aren’t actually getting colder — see the 10/11 Climate Progress post, “Last Two Winters’ Warm Extremes More Severe Than Their Cold Snaps, Study Finds.” And that’s without counting this winter. Of course, winters are just going to keep getting warmer globally — so I think some of the reporting on this study has been a tad misleading.
The point is that it now appears over the next couple of decades, the gradual rate of warming will not be able to overcome the occasional incredible winter cold surges fueled by the loss of Arctic ic. This is particularly true if, as I and others have argued, we’re going to see continued rapid ice loss in the next decade (see “The New Arctic Abnormal: Record Low Sea Ice Volume, Area and Extent*” and “The death spiral continues“).