Arctic Sea-Ice Loss Has ‘Minimal Influence’ on Severe Cold Winter Weather

Arctic Ice

The dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice through climate change has only a “minimal influence” on severe cold winter weather across Asia and North America, new research has shown.

The possible connection between Arctic sea-ice loss and extreme cold weather – such as the deep freezes that can grip the USA in the winter months – has long been studied by scientists.

Observations show that when the regional sea-ice cover is reduced, swathes of Asia and North America often experience unusually cold and hazardous winter conditions.

However, previous climate modeling studies have suggested that reduced sea ice cannot fully explain the cold winters.

Now, a new study by experts from the University of Exeter, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and the Energy and Sustainability Research Institute in Groningen, has shed new light on the link between sea-ice loss and cold winters.

For the research, the international team combined observations over the past 40 years with results from sophisticated climate modeling experiments. They found that the observations and models agreed that reduced regional sea ice and cold winters often coincide which each other.

They found that the correlation between reduced sea ice and extreme winters across the mid-latitude occurs because both are simultaneously driven by the same, large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns.

Crucially, it shows that reduced sea ice only has a minimal influence on whether a harsh and severe winter will occur.

The study is published in a leading science journal, Nature Climate Change.

Dr. Russell Blackport, a Mathematics Research Fellow at the University of Exeter and lead author of the paper said: “The correlation between reduced sea ice and cold winters does not mean one is causing the other. We show that the real cause is changes in atmospheric circulation which moves warm air into the Arctic and cold air into the mid-latitudes.”

Over recent decades, the Arctic region has experienced warming temperatures through climate change, which has led to a large decline in sea-ice cover.

This reduction in sea-ice cover means that areas of open water increase, which in turn allows the ocean to lose more heat to the atmosphere in winter – this can potentially alter the weather and climate, even well outside the Arctic.

Recent studies have suggested that the reduced sea ice or Arctic warming has contributed to recent cold winters experienced in the mid-latitude region – and that as the sea-ice reduces further through climate change, cold winters will become more frequent and severe.

Now, this new study suggests that reduced sea ice is not the main cause of the cold winters. Instead, the cold winters are likely caused by random fluctuations in the atmospheric circulation.

Professor James Screen, an Associate Professor in Climate Science at the University of Exeter said: “The are many reasons to be concerned about the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice, but an increased risk of severe winters in North America and Asia is not one of them.”

Dr. John Fyfe, a Research Scientist at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, who was not involved in the research, writes in Nature Climate Change: “Blackport and colleagues put to rest the notion that Arctic sea-ice loss caused the cold mid-latitude winters, showing instead that atmospheric circulation changes preceded, and then simultaneously drove sea-ice loss and mid-latitude cooling”.

Minimal influence of reduced Arctic sea ice on coincident cold winters in mid-latitudes by Russell Blackport, James Screen, Karin van der Wiel, and Richard Bintanja is published in Nature Climate Change.

It was funded through a grant by the Natural Environment Research Council.

Publication: Minimal influence of reduced Arctic sea ice on coincident cold winters in mid-latitudes, Nature Climate Change (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41558-019-0551-4

1 Comment on "Arctic Sea-Ice Loss Has ‘Minimal Influence’ on Severe Cold Winter Weather"

  1. I want ALL of you to realize that before the Ice Age on Earth that the Earth did NOT experience the winters that we use to have about 60 years ago and had since the Ice Age. Since 1960 when global warming started due to the introduction of jet engine airplanes, rockets and rocket weapons which drastically increased the heat in the upper atmosphere where rain clouds form, the Earth stopped having the normal winters we use to have and progressed into the kind of winters we have now which in no way compare to the kind of winters we had before 1960. If the Earth continues on the path it is on today the Earth will be doomed to not being able to support life on Earth for us humans.
    Think about this. Before the Ice Age the Earth REALLY didn’t have much cold winters. The weather before the Ice Age allowed vegetation and trees to grow all the way up in Alaska and all the other places that are now cold areas of the Earth. In fact I believe we didn’t have much cold air around the world at all before the Ice Age. The Ice Age gave the planet all the ice we have seen on the North and South Poles and all the glaciers around the world. There is NO WAY Mother Nature can reproduce the amount of ice again again around the world as it did when the Ice Age happened. A super volcano somewhere on Earth erupted millions of years ago and all it’s volcano ash block out the sun for many years which then caused the Ice Age. The ONLY way the Earth will be able to have as much ice as it did before the current global warming started in 1960 is for the Earth to experience another super volcano eruption.
    Because of global warming the Earth is headed for the way the Earth was before the Ice Age. Unfortunately we humans will in no way be able to survive as we do today in that kind of world which has no cold winters! Farming like we have today will not be possible anymore because the Earth will be getting much less rain. The Earth’s water will evaporate from the heat of the Sun. Streams and rivers will first quickly disappear as all life around it either dies or go on a constant move looking for livable areas on the planet. Mass chaos by people worldwide will only add to everyone’s problems as humans and animals fight for whatever is left on Earth for them to survive. Insects will drastically multiply and kill millions of people and animals as the insects spread their diseases worldwide.
    Some now think that the Earth will evolve to how the Earth was before the Ice Age once the North and South Poles and the glaciers around the world are melted. That will not happen because before the Ice Age there was mostly trees and vegetation around the world. That is not so today. Also the earth atmosphere had a lot more oxygen and moisture in the atmosphere to sustain a world with as much trees and vegetation as it had before the Ice Age.
    So think about all these things before you vote because whoever controls our government is going to have to save us from this hell, this global warming situation we humans have put this planet in! Do ANY of you trust Trump and the Republicans to save the planet from destruction!

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