Quantcast
Climate
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

Warmer Arctic Winters Linked to East Coast Winter Storms

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.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Popular
Kodachrome25 / Getty Images

Roof-to-Garden: How to Irrigate with Rainwater

By Brian Barth

The average American household uses about 320 gallons of water per day, a third for irrigation and other outdoor uses. Collecting the water flowing down your downspouts in rainstorms so you can use it to irrigate in dry periods is often touted as a simple way to cut back. But setting up a functional rainwater irrigation system—beyond the ubiquitous 55-gallon barrels under the downspout, which won't irrigate much more than a flower bed or two—is a fairly complicated DIY project.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
A family wears face masks as they walk through the smoke filled streets after the Thomas wildfire swept through Ventura, California on Dec. 6, 2017. MARK RALSTON / AFP / Getty Images

How to Protect Your Children From Wildfire Smoke

By Cecilia Sierra-Heredia

We're very careful about what our kids eat, but what about the air they breathe?

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Hero Images / Getty Images

Study: Children Have Better Nutrition When They Live Near Forests

Spending time in nature is known to boost mental and emotional health. Now, a new global study has found that children in 27 developing nations tend to have more diverse diets and better nutrition when they live near forests.

The paper, published Wednesday in Science Advances, provides evidence that forest conservation can be an important tool in promoting better nutrition in developing countries, rather than clear-cutting forests for more farmland.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Navy torpedo bomber spraying DDT just above the trees in Goldendale, WA in 1962. USDA Forest Service

Maternal DDT Exposure Linked to Increased Autism Risk

A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry Thursday found that mothers exposed to the banned pesticide DDT were nearly one-third more likely to have children who developed autism, Environmental Health News reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
GMO
Significant cupping of leaves from dicamba drift on non-Xtend soybeans planted next to Xtend beans in research plots at the Ashland Bottoms farm near Manhattan, KS. Dallas Peterson, K-State Research and Extension / CC BY 2.0

Top Seed Companies Urge EPA to Limit Dicamba

Two of the nation's largest independent seed sellers, Beck's Hybrids and Stine Seed, are urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to place limits on the spraying of the drift-prone pesticide dicamba, Reuters reported.

This could potentially hurt Monsanto, which along with DowDupont and BASF SE, makes dicamba formulations to use on Monsanto's Xtend seeds that are genetically engineered to resist applications of the weedkiller. Beck's Hybrids and Stine Seed, as well as other companies, sell those seeds.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
Baby son in high chair feeding father. Getty Images

Baby Food Tests Find 68 Percent Contain 'Worrisome' Levels of Heavy Metals

Testing published by Consumer Reports (CR) Thursday found "concerning levels" of toxic metals in popular U.S. baby and toddler food.

The consumer advocacy group tested 50 nationally-distributed, packaged foods designed for toddlers and babies for mercury, cadmium, arsenic and lead.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke talks to journalists outside the White House West Wing before attending a Trump cabinet meeting on Aug. 16. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Zinke Announces Plan to Fight Wildfires With More Logging

The Trump administration announced a new plan Thursday to fight ongoing wildfires with more logging, and with no mention of additional funding or climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Wangan and Jagalingou cultural leader Adrian Burragubba visits Doongmabulla Springs in Australia. The Wangan and Jagalingou are fighting a proposed coal mine that would likely destroy the springs, which are sacred to the Indigenous Australian group. Wangan and Jagalingou

Indigenous Australians Take Fight Against Giant Coal Mine to the United Nations

By Noni Austin

For tens of thousands of years, the Wangan and Jagalingou people have lived in the flat arid lands of central Queensland, Australia. But now they are fighting for their very existence. Earlier this month, they took their fight to the United Nations after years of Australia's failure to protect their fundamental human rights.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!