Researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, using computer model simulations, looked at the impact of gradually reducing the sea ice cover in the eastern Arctic from 100 percent to 1 percent in order to analyze the relative sensitivity of wintertime atmospheric circulation.
The shrinking of sea-ice in the eastern Arctic causes some regional heating of the lower levels of air – which may lead to strong anomalies in atmospheric airstreams, triggering an overall cooling of the northern continents during the winter, according to the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research press release.
"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," said Vladimir Petoukhov, lead author of the study. The Barents Sea. Image courtesy of WIkipedia.
"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.” An abrupt transition between different regimes of the atmospheric circulation in the sub-polar and polar regions may be very likely. Warming of the air over the Barents-Kara Sea seems to bring cold winter winds to 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." (from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research press release)
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