Global climate change

New study reaffirms link between Arctic warming and extreme winter weather in the eastern U.S.

By Brett Anderson, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
3/14/2018, 2:22:43 PM

A new study from Rutgers University and Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) supports earlier research showing a link between Arctic warming and the frequency of extreme winter weather in the Northeast United States.

“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. These swings tend to hang around for awhile, so the weather we have in the eastern United States, whether it’s cold or warm, tends to stay with us longer," said study co-author Jennifer Francis, research professor of marine and coastal sciences at Rutgers.

The graphic below shows an example of a stratospheric warming event over the North Pole.

The research team, which was led by Judah Cohen, Karl Pfeiffer and Francis determined that extreme winter weather is two to four times more likely to occur in the eastern U.S. when the Arctic is abnormally warm than when the Arctic is abnormally cold.

However, in the western U.S., extreme winter weather is more likely when the Arctic is abnormally cold, according to Rutgers Today.

When the abnormal warming in the Arctic extends upward into the stratosphere it tends to cause disruptions in the stratospheric Polar Vortex, which in turn eventually led to extreme winter weather events in the Northeast U.S.

“Five of the past six winters have brought persistent cold to the eastern U.S. and warm, dry conditions to the West, while the Arctic has been off-the-charts warm,” Francis said. “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.”

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

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Global climate change