Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Warmer Arctic Winters Linked to East Coast Winter Storms

Climate
Warmer Arctic Winters Linked to East Coast Winter Storms
Winter storms like the one that downed trees in Upper Moreland Township, PA this March are linked to warmer Arctic temperatures. Dough4872 / CC BY-SA 3.0

Politicians can stop using cold winter weather as an excuse to deny global warming. A study published Tuesday in Nature Communications links warmer Arctic temperatures to colder, snowier winters in the eastern U.S.


The research, conducted by scientists at Atmospheric and Environmental Research and Rutgers University-New Brunswick, concluded that extreme winters are two-to-four times more likely to occur on the East Coast when the Arctic is warmer than average.

The maps show that warmer Arctic temperatures correlate with colder temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere. Nature Communications

Arctic temperatures are also linked to colder winters in northern Europe and Asia, the study found. On the other hand, the western U.S. tends to see colder winters when the Arctic is also unusually cold.

The results indicate that the winter of 2017-2018, which was the warmest on record for the Arctic but brought England its coldest March 1 since 1785 and gifted New England with three storms in two weeks, was not an anomaly, but rather part of a larger trend.

The study based its findings on data from 1950 to 2016, but paid special attention to "the era of Arctic amplification," which began around 1990. Arctic amplification (AA) is the name given to the observation that the Arctic is warming two-to-three times faster than the rest of the world. Studies had predicted that AA would lead to warmer winters and lighter snow falls, but that has not been the case.

The study acknowledges that its findings only prove correlation, not causation. However, the correlation increased when the metrics used to assess Arctic warming led the metrics used to assess winter severity by five days. This suggests that if there is a casual relationship, the Arctic is driving weather events further south, and not the other way around.

In a University of Rutgers press release, study co-author and Rutgers marine-and-coastal-science professor Jennifer Francis explained how that might happen. "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," she said.

But James Screen, an associate professor of climate science at the University of Exeter, questioned that hypothesis in The Verge. Screen pointed out that climate models do not show a warmer Arctic driving colder winters. "Either the models are wrong, which is possible, or the interpretation of the observed correlation is wrong," he told The Verge.

Even if the warmer Arctic temperatures are not driving winter storms like Riley and Quinn, that doesn't mean climate change itself is not to blame. Warming ocean temperatures "produce stronger nor'easters like we've seen this season, with larger snowfall totals," Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, told The Verge in an email.

With restaurants and supermarkets becoming less viable options during the pandemic, there has been a growth in demand and supply of local food. Baker County Tourism Travel Baker County / Flickr

By Robin Scher

Beyond the questions surrounding the availability, effectiveness and safety of a vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic has led us to question where our food is coming from and whether we will have enough.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tearing through the crowded streets of Philadelphia, an electric car and a gas-powered car sought to win a heated race. One that mimicked how cars are actually used. The cars had to stop at stoplights, wait for pedestrians to cross the street, and swerve in and out of the hundreds of horse-drawn buggies. That's right, horse-drawn buggies. Because this race took place in 1908. It wanted to settle once and for all which car was the superior urban vehicle. Although the gas-powered car was more powerful, the electric car was more versatile. As the cars passed over the finish line, the defeat was stunning. The 1908 Studebaker electric car won by 10 minutes. If in 1908, the electric car was clearly the better form of transportation, why don't we drive them now? Today, I'm going to answer that question by diving into the history of electric cars and what I discovered may surprise you.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A technician inspects a bitcoin mining operation at Bitfarms in Saint Hyacinthe, Quebec on March 19, 2018. LARS HAGBERG / AFP via Getty Images

As bitcoin's fortunes and prominence rise, so do concerns about its environmental impact.

Read More Show Less
OR-93 traveled hundreds of miles from Oregon to California. Austin Smith Jr. / Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs / California Department of Fish and Wildlife

An Oregon-born wolf named OR-93 has sparked conservation hopes with a historic journey into California.

Read More Show Less
A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant built along the Monongahela River, 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on Sept. 24, 2013 in New Eagle, Pennsylvania. The plant, owned by FirstEnergy, was retired the following month. Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

By David Drake and Jeffrey York

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The Big Idea

People often point to plunging natural gas prices as the reason U.S. coal-fired power plants have been shutting down at a faster pace in recent years. However, new research shows two other forces had a much larger effect: federal regulation and a well-funded activist campaign that launched in 2011 with the goal of ending coal power.

Read More Show Less