Shrinking Arctic sea ice is bringing colder, snowier winters to the UK and Europe, North America and China, a new study shows. As global temperatures have risen, the area of Arctic Ocean covered by ice in summer and autumn has been falling steadily. Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy a team from US/China show this affects the jet streams and brings cold, snowy weather. Whether conditions will get colder still as ice melts further is unclear. There was a marked deterioration in ice cover between the summers of 2006 and 2007, which still holds the record for the lowest extent on record; and it has not recovered since. The current winter is roughly tracking the graph of 2007, according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIC).
The study is not the first to link low levels of Artic sea ice and Europe’s winter weather. Through observations and computer modelling, the team headed by Jiping Liu from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, US, and the Insitute of Atmospheric Physics in Beijing has also made clear the mechanisms involved. Dr Liu said “We don’t see a predictive relationship with any of the other factors that have been proposed, such as El Nino; but for sea ice, we do see a predictive relationship.”