Arctic warming heralds colder US winters, warns NOAA

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The Arctic is contuing to warm at an unprecented rate - and the changes are likely to be permanent, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

It's reporting record temperatures in Greenland, thinning sea ice, record snow cover decreases and changes in weather patterns across the northern hemisphere.

The team of 69 international scientists found that Greenland is experiencing temperatures higher than ever before, along with record ice melt and glacier area loss. Summer sea ice continues to decline — indeed, ice cover for 2009-2010 was the third lowest since satellite monitoring began in 1979.

Sea ice thickness was the third lowest since 1979, and Arctic snow cover duration was the lowest since record-keeping began in 1966.

The team also found evidence that higher air temperatures in the Arctic atmosphere during fall is having an effect on the atmospheric circulation in both the Arctic and northern mid-latitudes such as the US.

Winter 2009-2010 showed a link between mid-latitude extreme cold and snowy weather events and changes in the wind patterns of the Arctic, related to a phase of the Arctic Oscillation. The implication is that colder winters could become the norm.

"To quote one of my NOAA colleagues, 'whatever is going to happen in the rest of the world happens first, and to the greatest extent, in the Arctic'," said Jane Lubchenco, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

"Beyond affecting the humans and wildlife that call the area home, the Arctic’s warmer temperatures and decreases in permafrost, snow cover, glaciers and sea ice also have wide-ranging consequences for the physical and biological systems in other parts of the world."

The full 'Report Card' is here.