Thursday 30 October 2014

Arctic sea ice melt will result in more frequent harsh winters in Europe and Asia

Europe and Asia are due for some harsh winters in the future thanks to Arctic ice melt, new research says. Declining sea ice in the Arctic, Barents, and Kara seas since 2004 has been messing with the pole's wind patterns, which is sending bitter cold Arctic air more frequently over parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

So even though we live in a warming world, the risk of severe winters has more than doubled for Europe and Asia.

"This counterintuitive effect of the global warming that led to the sea ice decline in the first place
makes some people think that global warming has stopped. It has not," Colin Summerhayes of the Scott Polar Research Institute said, according to research published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Researchers, led by Masato Mori of the University of Tokyo, performed some 200 computer simulations using data from years with high and low sea-ice cover. They found that years in which sea ice melted the most in the Arctic resulted in colder winters in Eurasia.

This can be attributed to what scientists call "blocking" situations, in which freezing Arctic air is
pulled southward and gets stuck in a particular pattern for days or even weeks, resulting in severe
weather that can last for long periods of time. Reduced sea ice exacerbates this phenomenon - making it more than twice as likely - and explains Eurasia's heightened risk for bitter winter months.

Eventually however, climate warming is expected to outweigh the sea ice effect - but this will result in even more wild and unpredictable weather over many areas.

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