Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cold winters caused by warmer summers, research suggests

Date:
January 16, 2012
Source:
Institute of Physics
Summary:
Scientists have offered up a convincing explanation for the harsh winters recently experienced in the Northern hemisphere: increasing temperatures and melting ice in the Arctic regions creating more snowfall in the autumn months at lower latitudes.

Scientists have offered up a convincing explanation for the harsh winters recently experienced in the Northern Hemisphere; increasing temperatures and melting ice in the Arctic regions creating more snowfall in the autumn months at lower latitudes.
Credit: Indigo Fish / Fotolia

Scientists have offered up a convincing explanation for the harsh winters recently experienced in the Northern Hemisphere; increasing temperatures and melting ice in the Arctic regions creating more snowfall in the autumn months at lower latitudes.

Their findings may throw light on specific weather incidents such as the extremely harsh Florida winter of 2010 which ended up killing a host of tropical creatures, as well as the chaos-causing snow that fell on the UK in December 2010.

Published January 13, in IOP Publishing's journal Environmental Research Letters, this new research suggests that the trend of increasingly cold winters over the past two decades could be explained by warmer temperatures in the autumn having a marked effect on normal weather patterns, causing temperatures to plummet in the following winter.

The strongest winter cooling trends were observed in the eastern United States, southern Canada and much of northern Eurasia, which the researchers, based at Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER), the University of Massachusetts and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, believe cannot be entirely explained by the natural variability of the climate system.

Their results showed strong warming throughout July, August and September in the Arctic, which continued through the autumn and, according to their observational data, appeared to enhance the melting of sea ice.

This warmer atmosphere, combined with melting sea ice, allows the Arctic atmosphere to hold more moisture and increases the likelihood of precipitation over more southern areas such as Eurasia, which, in the freezing temperatures, would fall as snow. Indeed, the researchers' observations showed that the average snow coverage in Eurasia has increased over the past two decades.

They believe the increased snow cover has an intricate effect on the Arctic Oscillation -- an atmospheric pressure pattern in the mid- to high-latitudes -- causing it to remain in the "negative phase."

In the "negative phase," high pressure resides over the Arctic region, pushing colder air into mid-latitude regions, such as the United States and northern Canada, and giving the observed colder winters.

The lead author of the study, Judah Cohen, said: "In my mind there is no doubt that the globe is getting warmer and this will favour warmer temperatures in all seasons and in all locations; however, I do think that the increasing trend in snow cover has led to regional cooling as discussed in the paper and I see no reason why this won't continue into the near future. Also if it continues to get much warmer in the fall, precipitation that currently falls as snow will fall as rain instead, eliminating the winter cooling."

It is also deduced that one of the main reasons conventional climate models fail to pick up on this observed winter cooling is their failure to account for the variability of snow cover, which, as demonstrated in this study, can greatly improve the accuracy of seasonal, and lengthier, forecasts.

"We show in the paper how using the snow cover in a seasonal forecast can provide a more skilful or accurate forecast. Without correctly simulating the coupling of winter climate patterns and the variability of snow fall, the models currently used by Government centres miss an important influence on winter and will therefore continue to be deficient in predicting winter weather on seasonal time scales, and even longer decadal time scales," continued Cohen.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Institute of Physics. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Judah L Cohen, Jason C Furtado, Mathew A Barlow, Vladimir A Alexeev, Jessica E Cherry. Arctic warming, increasing snow cover and widespread boreal winter cooling. Environmental Research Letters, 2012; 7 (1): 014007 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/7/1/014007

Cite This Page:

Institute of Physics. "Cold winters caused by warmer summers, research suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120112193430.htm>.
Institute of Physics. (2012, January 16). Cold winters caused by warmer summers, research suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120112193430.htm
Institute of Physics. "Cold winters caused by warmer summers, research suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120112193430.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Big waves in parts of the Arctic Ocean are unprecedented, mainly because they used to be covered in ice. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

AP (July 30, 2014) A ruptured 93-year-old water main left the UCLA campus awash in 8 million gallons of water in the middle of California's worst drought in decades. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins