“Five of the past six winters have brought persistent cold to the eastern US and warm, dry conditions to the West, while the Arctic has been off-the-charts warm. Our study suggests that this is no coincidence.
Exactly how much the Arctic contributed to the severity or persistence of the pattern is still hard to pin down, but it’s becoming very difficult to believe they are unrelated,” said AER’s Seasonal Forecasting Director Judah Cohen to CNN.
Various researches have shown that rising Arctic temperatures lead to melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and animal life adaptations. But what is not yet known is if it could also be associated with the extreme winter weather previously experienced in the United States.
A new study by Rutgers University and Atmospheric and Environmental Research has shown that “winter storms were two to four times more likely when the Arctic is abnormally warm, compared to when it was abnormally cold.” Focusing on United States’ northeast region cities, the researchers studied enormous historical weather data composed of more tha 6,000 data points.
“Because we could perform analysis on over 6,000 data points in comparison to less than 30 data points in previous studies, we could show a much more robust (and statistically significant) relationship between a warm Arctic and increased severe winter weather in the mid-latitudes,” explained Cohen, the lead author of the study.
Cohen described how probable that the extreme winters encountered are related to warming the Arctic regions: “Our statistical analysis shows that one is more likely to be struck by lightning, attacked by a shark, and win the Powerball all at the same time than the possibility of severe winter weather in the northeastern US not being related to Arctic temperatures.”
He also added that their study is the first to show the significant relationship. “As far as I know, for the first time we show that a warmer Arctic is also more favorable for heavy snowfall.” According to Cohen, the study was conducted and published amidst the “extreme winter of 2017/2018: record warm Arctic and low sea ice, record-breaking polar vortex disruption, record-breaking cold in both the US and Europe, disruptive snowfalls in both the US and Europe, severe ‘bomb cyclones,’ and costly nor’easters.”
A meteorologist from weather.us, Ryan Maue, who is not involved in the study expressed to CNN that the research done by Cohen and team “highlights the difficulty in disentangling the cause-and-effect between Arctic warming and middle latitude extreme events. While no firm scientific consensus exists in the climate community on these Arctic interactions, this research communication will help direct future research and spur timely debate on a high impact climate change problem.”