Climate change could lead to colder winters in North America

Weather Blog

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – As the earth warms because of more greenhouse gases being trapped in the atmosphere, strange patterns are starting to emerge that have never been seen measured. These patterns are being studied to figure out exactly what we can expect as we move toward a warmer world. Based on certain climate models and projections, scientists are getting better at forecasting how climate change is going to interact with the atmosphere and hydrologic cycle. We may see more cooling in certain regions, despite climate change leading to an overwhelmingly warm trend.

A new study in the Journal for the American Meteorological Society found a major correlation between Bering Sea Ice loss and cold winters in North America. The Bering sea, located west of Alaska, has ice that grows and shrinks with the seasons. This paper can prove with a high level of certainty that the extreme cold winter of 2017/18 can be linked to the lowest amount of Bering Sea Ice since high quality measurements started taking place with satellites in 1979.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ROCHESTER?

One of Rochester’s worst winters in recent memory was of 2013-’14 and 2014-’15 when brutal cold gripped the entire Northeast. Both winters saw several cold records as well as over 100″ of snow. February 2015 ended up being the coldest on record. That winter did correlate with lower Bering Sea Ice according to one study that looked at the connection. This could be another tool of many to help try and better forecast seasonal variations compared to normal. This correlation may help us better understand how we could see colder winters, but as of now there is an unknown correlation with amount of snow.

NOTES AND TAKEAWAYS:

Other studies have tried to prove a warmer Arctic will mean a more active and extreme winter. While we know the Arctic is warming rapidly, and the ice is quickly melting, we are still struggling to understand how this could influence seasonal weather. Here is an article that analyzes Arctic amplification and its relationship to extreme weather in midlatitudes that finds inconclusive evidence that a more active pattern develops from increased Arctic oscillations from climate change. There may be a correlation between ice gain and loss, but the magnitude of that gain and loss have been difficult to summarize with a high level of certainty.

Climate change will continue to drastically alter how our atmosphere functions for thousands of years into the future and we are only now understanding with data and models how our carbon emissions are changing the environment.

-Meteorologist James Gilbert

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