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Arctic Sea Ice Reduction and its Impact on the Jet Stream

May 29, 2013; 3:04 PM

There continues to be growing, scientific evidence that the dramatic decline in Arctic sea ice in recent time is indeed having an influence on the atmospheric circulation (includes the jet stream) within and beyond the Arctic.

The most recent analysis of Arctic sea ice. Image courtesy of the national Snow and Ice Data Center.

A recent study in the International Journal of Climatology analyzed the impact of the sea ice conditions of 2007 on the atmospheric circulation and temperatures. The year 2007 was used since it had the second lowest Arctic sea ice extent in the satellite era.

Two 30-year simulations, one using the sea ice levels of 2007 and another using sea ice levels at the end of the 20th century, were used to access the impact of ice free seas. The results showed a significant response to the anomalous open water of 2007, according to the EurekAlert story.

The results of the study confirmed that the increase in open water in the Arctic during 2007 led to an increase in temperature. The higher temperatures in the Arctic thus caused a decrease in the pole to equator temperature gradient which in turn created a weaker jet stream and less storminess in the mid-latitudes.

A comparison of the Arctic sea ice extents of 2007, 2012 and so far this year with the average. Image courtesy of the NSIDC.

The research team compared the model simulated circulation to the observed 2007 circulation and found that it was quite similar during the autumn and winter, but not so much for spring and summer.

Based on all of this, the study concluded that the reduced sea ice in the Arctic during 2007 was at least partly responsible for the observed atmospheric circulation during the fall and winter of 2007.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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