The Arctic’s rapid warming may be a major cause of the extreme cold snaps that hit the United States and Asia in winter, according to a new study that addresses an apparent long-standing contradiction in climate science.
The text, published in the journal Science, used observational data and models to establish a link between human-related global warming and a phenomenon called ‘stratospheric polar vortex disturbance’ (SPV).
The SPV is a band of westerly winds that circles the Arctic and, under normal conditions, keeps the cold air in that region contained.
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But the team found that the rapid warming of the Arctic and its effects, such as the loss of sea ice or increased snow cover in Siberia, related to increased humidity in the atmosphere, cause the temperature difference to the west to widen. to the east across Eurasia.
The phenomenon leads to a weakening of the SPV, which in turn can cause cold waves like the one that hit Canada, the United States and Mexico last winter, causing dozens of deaths in Texas, as well as damages of more than 200 billion dollars.
“It seems very counter-intuitive” and “unexpected that this strong warming in the Arctic is causing cooling in other regions,” University of Massachusetts co-author Matthew Barlow told AFP.
But the result of the investigation was clear.
“I was a little surprised that the result was so clear, that we could establish a correlation as clear as we did”, the researcher was surprised.
The Arctic is warming at a rate twice the world average and severe winter weather is increasing in mid-latitude regions, but the question of whether the two phenomena are related is a matter of scientific debate.
“In the past, these extremes of cold in the United States and Russia were used as a justification for not reducing emissions (of polluting gases), but there is no longer an excuse, we must start reducing these emissions now,” added Chaim Garfinkel of the University from Jerusalem, also co-author of the study, in a video.
According to these scientists, one of the strengths of the research was that, in addition to reviewing historical data, it used powerful climate modeling to test whether the hypothesis held true when new parameters, such as even more heat and more snow cover in Siberia, were added.
The results can be used to improve extreme weather warnings in Asia, Canada and the United States, “maybe even a few weeks in advance,” said Barlow.
“People are really starting to realize that even if climate change doesn’t happen in their backyard, they can be affected,” he added. “Climate change in the Arctic is not only regrettable for polar bears, it is not simply a curious fact.”
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