Climate Science

Sea-ice loss behind Eurasia's chills

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Science  31 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6209, pp. 597
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6209.597-c

The Colosseum in February 2012, during a cold wave that swept across Europe.

CREDIT: EPA/GUIDO MONTANI/NEWSCOM

Severe winters, such as the deadly cold wave from January to February 2012 that blanketed Europe with snow, are becoming more frequent across Eurasia. Some scientists contend that Arctic sea-ice loss is responsible, but modelers haven't pinpointed a climate link. Mori et al. identified two circulation patterns that drove winter temperatures in Eurasia from 1979 to 2013: the Arctic Oscillation (which confines colder air to the polar latitudes) and a pattern dubbed “Warm Arctic and Cold Eurasia” (WACE), which correlated both to sea-ice loss in the Barents-Kara Sea and to particularly cold winters; its impact has more than doubled the probability of severe winters in central Eurasia. But by the end of the century, the Arctic Oscillation could overpower WACE's cooling effect, bringing temperatures back up.

Nat. Geosci., 10.1038/ngeo2277 (2014).

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