In another example of just how little we have a grasp on the mechanics of our planets climate system, new research out of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research has predicted colder winters as a result of global warming in the Arctic.
According to a study that was recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, the shrinking sea-ice in the eastern Arctic caused as a result of increased warming in the region ends up causing regional heating of the lower levels of air, which themselves lead to strong anomalies in the atmospheric airstreams which trigger cooling of northern continents.
“These anomalies could triple the probability of cold winter extremes in Europe and northern Asia,” says Vladimir Petoukhov, lead author of the study and climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “Recent severe winters like last year’s or the one of 2005-06 do not conflict with the global warming picture, but rather supplement it.”
Using a computer model that focused on the Barents-Kara Sea north of Norway and Russia, the researchers reduced the sea ice cover in the eastern Arctic from 100 percent to 1 percent in an effort to analyse the relative sensitivity of the regions atmospheric circulation.
“Our simulations reveal a rather pronounced nonlinear response of air temperatures and winds to the changes of sea-ice cover,” Petoukhov, a physicist, says. “It ranges from warming to cooling to warming again, as sea ice decreases.”
In other words, warming in the Barants-Kara Sea results in cooler winter winds in Europe.
“This is not what one would expect,” Petoukhov says. “Whoever thinks that the shrinking of some far away sea-ice won’t bother him could be wrong. There are complex teleconnections in the climate system, and in the Barents-Kara Sea we might have discovered a powerful feedback mechanism.”