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June 11, 2010

Extreme Warming in Arctic Equals Colder Winters—and Political Gridlock

Snowy cityThe political (or at least the Senatorial) tides are running strongly against a muscular policy response to climate change. Now a top NOAA scientist tells us that even the winds are blowing in the wrong direction -- actual winds, mind you, not political. Via Science Daily:

A warmer Arctic climate is influencing the air pressure at the North Pole and shifting wind patterns on our planet. We can expect more cold and snowy winters in Europe, eastern Asia and eastern North America.

"Cold and snowy winters will be the rule, rather than the exception," says Dr. James Overland of the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in the United States. Dr. Overland is at the International Polar Year Oslo Science Conference (IPY-OSC) to chair a session on
polar climate feedbacks, amplification and teleconnections, including impacts on mid-latitudes.

It's not greenhouse gases per se that are driving these near-term changes -- it's the dramatic loss of sea ice along with warming-induced alterations to wind patterns, changes that Overland also referred to as "irreversible." He explicitly linked this past year's snowpocalypses to this Arctic warming, called "Arctic amplification" due to the fact that the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world. This is a significant finding for all sorts of reasons, but it also means climate change's second order effects, i.e. the changes in the systems that the rise in greenhouse gases has affected, are now themselves causing real and meaningful climate alterations. And the pace will likely accelerate.

READ THE REST OF THIS POST ON GRIST.ORG

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