Nonlinear response of mid-latitude weather to the changing Arctic


Are continuing changes in the Arctic influencing wind patterns and the occurrence of extreme weather events in northern mid-latitudes? The chaotic nature of atmospheric circulation precludes easy answers. The topic is a major science challenge, as continued Arctic temperature increases are an inevitable aspect of anthropogenic climate change. We propose a perspective that rejects simple cause-and-effect pathways and notes diagnostic challenges in interpreting atmospheric dynamics. We present a way forward based on understanding multiple processes that lead to uncertainties in Arctic and mid-latitude weather and climate linkages. We emphasize community coordination for both scientific progress and communication to a broader public.

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Figure 1: Different configurations of the tropospheric polar vortex.
Figure 2: A complex web of pathways summarizing examples of potential mechanisms that contribute to more frequent amplified flow and more persistent weather patterns in mid-latitudes.
Figure 3: Global air temperatures anomalies (°C) for January 2016.
Figure 4: State dependence of the atmospheric response to Arctic sea ice loss.
Figure 5: Current state of the science for selected linkages.


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J.E.O. is supported by NOAA Arctic Research Project of the Climate Program Office. J.A.F. is supported by NSF/ARCSS Grant 1304097. K.D. acknowledges support from the German DFG Transregional Collaborative Research Centre TR 172. J.A.S. was funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council grants NE/J019585/1 and NE/M006123/1. R.J.H. and E.H. acknowledge support from the University of Sheffield's Project Sunshine. S.-J.K. was supported by the project of Korea Polar Research Institute (PE16010), and T.V. was supported by the Academy of Finland (Contract 259537). We appreciate the support of IASC, CliC and the University of Sheffield for hosting a productive workshop. PMEL Contribution Number 4429.

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J.E.O. was the coordinating author and all other authors contributed ideas, analyses and text.

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Correspondence to James E. Overland.

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Prescribed surface boundary conditions. (PDF 1460 kb)

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Overland, J., Dethloff, K., Francis, J. et al. Nonlinear response of mid-latitude weather to the changing Arctic. Nature Clim Change 6, 992–999 (2016).

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