Evidence linking rapid Arctic warming to mid-latitude weather patterns

Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2015 Jul 13;373(2045):20140170. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2014.0170.


The effects of rapid Arctic warming and ice loss on weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere is a topic of active research, lively scientific debate and high societal impact. The emergence of Arctic amplification--the enhanced sensitivity of high-latitude temperature to global warming--in only the last 10-20 years presents a challenge to identifying statistically robust atmospheric responses using observations. Several recent studies have proposed and demonstrated new mechanisms by which the changing Arctic may be affecting weather patterns in mid-latitudes, and these linkages differ fundamentally from tropics/jet-stream interactions through the transfer of wave energy. In this study, new metrics and evidence are presented that suggest disproportionate Arctic warming-and resulting weakening of the poleward temperature gradient-is causing the Northern Hemisphere circulation to assume a more meridional character (i.e. wavier), although not uniformly in space or by season, and that highly amplified jet-stream patterns are occurring more frequently. Further analysis based on self-organizing maps supports this finding. These changes in circulation are expected to lead to persistent weather patterns that are known to cause extreme weather events. As emissions of greenhouse gases continue unabated, therefore, the continued amplification of Arctic warming should favour an increased occurrence of extreme events caused by prolonged weather conditions.

Keywords: Arctic; extreme weather; jet stream.