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Record Loss of Arctic Ice May Trigger Crazy, Snowy Winter

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Looking out at the gorgeous, warm sunshine this afternoon, it’s hard to imagine that in a few short months, those of us in the Northeast U.S. will all be adding on the layers and dodging the cold.

Of course, after last year’s bizarre mild wintry season, it would seem like we’re due to Mother Nature’s frosty wrath to make a sharp return. But according to some scientists, that slap back to normalcy may actually come in the form of a uppercut to the head.

“It’s probably going to be a very interesting winter,” climate scientist Jennifer Francis said Wednesday in a teleconference with reporters.

Why? It’s not La Niña, which typically ramps up our wintery weather, but record ice loss in the Arctic that may turn things to 11 this season. From HuffPo:

On August 26, Arctic sea ice extent broke the record low set in 2007, and it has continued to decline since, dropping below 1.5 million square miles. That represents a 45 percent reduction in the area covered by sea ice compared to the 1980s and 1990s, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), and may be unprecedented in human history. The extent of sea ice that melted so far this year is equivalent to the size of Canada and Alaska combined.

“It didn’t just touch the record, it really drove right through it,” Ted Scambos at the National Snow and Ice Data Center told NPR. “I would say it’s been a few thousand years since we’ve seen the Arctic this open.”

Less ice means less of the sun’s energy reflected back into space. Instead, land and sea absorb the heat, leading to more ice melt, and ultimately impacting the jet steam. A study published last year showed Arctic warming causing the jet stream to slow down and become more amplified in a north-south direction. This can lead to more intense and extreme weather events for the U.S. and Europe.

“[The] tendency for weather to hang around longer is going to favor extreme weather conditions that are related to persistent weather patterns,” said Francis.

So put down that Farmer’s Almanac (the 2013 prediction calls for cold, but drier conditions in the NE) and make sure you have plenty of hot cocoa and time to shovel. Winter may be back in a big way this year.


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