New research from Rutgers University has linked extreme weather events, including 2009’s “snowmageddon,” Hurricane Sandy, and Europe’s recent heatwaves, to the rapid melting of ice in the Arctic, The Guardian reported.
Researchers believe that the increase in Arctic ice loss causes the polar jet stream to get “stuck,” causing Western Europe and much of North America to “experience more extreme weather because of ‘Arctic amplification,’ – the enhanced sensitivity of high latitudes to global warming.”
“We are seeing these extremes because the Arctic is warming faster than elsewhere,” said study co-author Jennifer Francis. “The whole lower atmosphere is heating up but the sea ice is the most observable. This is having this effect on the jet stream, making it extend further south and stay longer.”
“The jet stream creates weather of all sorts and where you are in relation to it dictates whether it is hot or cold. When we have a ridge, or a big bulge, in the the jet stream, it makes it extend further and stay longer. When that ridge is stronger it tends to be more persistent,” Francis said.
These “deep troughs” in the jet stream have been occurring more regularly, causing record-breaking heatwaves in some parts of the world and massive snowfall in others. Professor Francis said,
“We are seeing extended periods of extreme weather because when the temperature difference between polar and mid northern latitudes gets smaller [because of global warming] this has the effect of weakening the jet stream, allowing it to be deflected more easily and to meander more. It’s a combination of natural conditions being intensified [along with] global warming.”
Researchers hope that it will someday be possible to predict which types of extreme weather will be more likely to hit certain regions, “but because Arctic amplification has emerged only in the past 20 years, it is a challenge to pin down exactly how it affects weather patterns.”
Regardless of which events hit which area, the need to fight the rapidly-increasing effects of climate change remains the same. If nothing is done, the extreme weather will continue to wreak havoc across the globe.