Review

Recent Arctic amplification and extreme mid-latitude weather

Received:
Accepted:
Published online:

Abstract

The Arctic region has warmed more than twice as fast as the global average — a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification. The rapid Arctic warming has contributed to dramatic melting of Arctic sea ice and spring snow cover, at a pace greater than that simulated by climate models. These profound changes to the Arctic system have coincided with a period of ostensibly more frequent extreme weather events across the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes, including severe winters. The possibility of a link between Arctic change and mid-latitude weather has spurred research activities that reveal three potential dynamical pathways linking Arctic amplification to mid-latitude weather: changes in storm tracks, the jet stream, and planetary waves and their associated energy propagation. Through changes in these key atmospheric features, it is possible, in principle, for sea ice and snow cover to jointly influence mid-latitude weather. However, because of incomplete knowledge of how high-latitude climate change influences these phenomena, combined with sparse and short data records, and imperfect models, large uncertainties regarding the magnitude of such an influence remain. We conclude that improved process understanding, sustained and additional Arctic observations, and better coordinated modelling studies will be needed to advance our understanding of the influences on mid-latitude weather and extreme events.

  • Subscribe to Nature Geoscience for full access:

    $59

    Subscribe

Additional access options:

Already a subscriber?  Log in  now or  Register  for online access.

References

  1. 1.

    et al. Sea ice response to an extreme negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation during winter 2009/2010. Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L02502 (2011).

  2. 2.

    & Decline in Arctic sea ice thickness from submarine and ICESat records: 1958–2008. Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L15501 (2009).

  3. 3.

    , , & Future Arctic climate changes: adaptation and mitigation timescales. Earth's Future 2, 68–74 (2014).

  4. 4.

    & Spring snow cover extent reductions in the 2008–2012 period exceeding climate model projections. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L19504 (2012).

  5. 5.

    , & Summer Arctic atmospheric circulation response to spring Eurasian snow cover and its possible linkage to accelerated sea ice decrease. J. Clim. (2014).

  6. 6.

    , & Interpreting observed Northern Hemisphere snow trends with large ensembles of climate simulations. Clim. Dynam. 43, 345–359 (2013).

  7. 7.

    IPCC Summary for Policymakers in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) 3–29 (Cambridge Univ, Press, 2013).

  8. 8.

    , , , & The emergence of surface-based Arctic amplification. Cryosphere 3, 11–19 (2009).

  9. 9.

    & The central role of diminishing sea ice in recent Arctic temperature amplification. Nature 464, 1334–1337 (2010).

  10. 10.

    & Coverage bias in the HadCRUT4 temperature series and its impact on recent temperature trends. Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc. 133, 459–77 (2013).

  11. 11.

    & Polar amplification of climate change in coupled models. Clim. Dynam. 21, 221–232 (2003).

  12. 12.

    et al. The Arctic's rapidly shrinking sea ice cover: a research synthesis. Climatic Change 110, 1005–1027 (2012).

  13. 13.

    et al. Attribution of polar warming to human influence. Nature Geosci. 1, 750–754 (2008).

  14. 14.

    Amplified Arctic climate change: What does surface albedo feedback have to do with it? Geophys. Res. Lett. 33, L03701 (2006).

  15. 15.

    & Processes and impacts of Arctic amplification: a research synthesis. Glob. Planet. Change 77, 85–96 (2011).

  16. 16.

    , & Local and remote controls on observed Arctic warming. Geophys. Res Lett. 39, L10709 (2012).

  17. 17.

    & Climate response to regional radiative forcing during the twentieth century. Nature Geosci. 2, 294–300 (2009).

  18. 18.

    & New insight into the disappearing Arctic sea ice. EOS Trans. Am. Geophys. Union 87, 509–511 (2006).

  19. 19.

    & Polar amplification in a coupled climate model with locked albedo. Clim. Dynam. 33, 629–643 (2009).

  20. 20.

    & Arctic amplification dominated by temperature feedbacks in contemporary climate models. Nature Geosci. 7, 181–184 (2014).

  21. 21.

    , , , & Vertical structure of recent Arctic warming. Nature 451, 53–56 (2008).

  22. 22.

    et al. Is there a “new normal” climate in the Beaufort Sea? Polar Res. 32, 19552 (2013).

  23. 23.

    , & Arctic Ocean surface warming trends over the past 100 years. Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, L19715 (2008).

  24. 24.

    & Arctic cyclogenesis at the marginal ice zone: A contributory mechanism for the temperature amplification? Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L12502 (2011).

  25. 25.

    & Increasing fall-winter energy loss from the Arctic Ocean and its role in Arctic amplification. Geophys. Res. Lett. 37, L16707 (2010).

  26. 26.

    , , & Human contribution to more-intense precipitation extremes. Nature 470, 378–381 (2011).

  27. 27.

    & A decade of weather extremes. Nature Clim. Change 2, 491–496 (2012).

  28. 28.

    , & Global increasing trends in annual maximum daily precipitation. J. Clim. 26, 3904–3918 (2013).

  29. 29.

    & Historic and future increase in the global land area affected by monthly heat extremes. Environ. Res. Lett. 8, 034018 (2013).

  30. 30.

    , & Global increase in record-breaking monthly-mean temperatures. Climatic Change 118, 771–782 (2013).

  31. 31.

    , , & No pause in the increase of hot temperature extremes. Nature Clim. Change 4, 161–163 (2014).

  32. 32.

    et al. Global land-based datasets for monitoring climatic extremes. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 94, 997–1006 (2013).

  33. 33.

    Arctic amplification decreases temperature variance in northern mid- to high-latitudes. Nature Clim. Change 4, 577–582 (2014).

  34. 34.

    , & Decadal fluctuations in planetary wave forcing modulate global warming in late boreal winter. J. Clim. 22, 4418–4426 (2009).

  35. 35.

    , , , & Impact of declining Arctic sea ice on winter snow. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 4074–4079 (2012).

  36. 36.

    & An Arctic wild card in the weather. Oceanography 25, 7–9 (2012).

  37. 37.

    , , , & Arctic warming, increasing fall snow cover and widespread boreal winter cooling. Environ. Res. Lett. 7, 014007 (2012).

  38. 38.

    , , & Cold winter extremes in northern continents linked to Arctic sea ice loss. Environ. Res. Lett. 8, 014036 (2013).

  39. 39.

    US cold snap fuels climate debate. Nature (2014).

  40. 40.

    & Arctic warming and your weather: public belief in the connection. Int. J. Climatol. 34, 1723–1728 (2013).

  41. 41.

    , & Polar amplification of surface warming on an aquaplanet in “ghost forcing” experiments without sea ice feedbacks. Clim. Dynam. 24, 655–666 (2005).

  42. 42.

    , , , &. Asymmetric seasonal temperature trends. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L04705 (2012).

  43. 43.

    , , , & Global warming and winter weather. Science 343, 729–730 (2014).

  44. 44.

    Record-breaking winters and global climate change. Science 344, 803–804 (2014).

  45. 45.

    & Heated debate on cold weather. Nature Clim. Change 4, 577–582 (2014).

  46. 46.

    , , &. Warm Arctic, cold continents: a common pattern related to Arctic sea ice melt, snow advance, and extreme winter weather. Oceanography 26, 150–160 (2013).

  47. 47.

    Effects of Arctic sea ice decline on weather and climate: a review. Surv. Geophys. (2014).

  48. 48.

    The potential for skill across the range of the seamless weather-climate prediction problem: a stimulus for our science. Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc. 139, 573–584 (2013).

  49. 49.

    & The North Atlantic jet stream under climate change and its relation to the NAO and EA patterns. J. Clim. 25, 886–902 (2012).

  50. 50.

    et al. A review on Northern Hemisphere sea-ice, storminess and the North Atlantic Oscillation: observations and projected changes. Atmos. Res. 101, 809–834 (2011).

  51. 51.

    , & Warm Arctic–cold continents: impacts of the newly open Arctic Sea. Polar Res. 30, 15787 (2011).

  52. 52.

    , , & Changes in the Arctic Oscillation under increased atmospheric greenhouse gases. Geophys. Res. Lett. 34, L12701 (2007).

  53. 53.

    & Regions of autumn Eurasian snow cover and associations with North American winter temperatures. Int. J. Climatol. 32, 1164–1177 (2012).

  54. 54.

    & Eurasian snow cover variability and Northern Hemisphere climate predictability. Geophys. Res. Lett. 26, 345–348 (1999).

  55. 55.

    & A new index for more accurate winter predictions. Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L21701 (2011).

  56. 56.

    , , & How stationary is the relationship between Siberian snow and Arctic Oscillation over the 20th century? Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 183–188 (2013).

  57. 57.

    & Is Eurasian October snow cover extent increasing? Environ. Res. Lett. 8, 024006 (2013).

  58. 58.

    , , , & On the emergence of an Arctic amplification signal in terrestrial Arctic snow extent. J. Geophys. Res. 115, D24105 (2010).

  59. 59.

    et al. Simulated Siberian snow cover response to observed Arctic sea ice loss, 1979–2008. J. Geophys. Res. 117, D23108 (2012).

  60. 60.

    Role of Arctic sea ice in global atmospheric circulation. Glob. Planet. Change 68, 149–163 (2009).

  61. 61.

    , , , & Winter Northern Hemisphere weather patterns remember summer Arctic sea-ice extent. Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L07503 (2009).

  62. 62.

    & Large-scale atmospheric circulation changes are associated with the recent loss of Arctic sea ice. Tellus A 62, 1–9 (2010).

  63. 63.

    , & Observed feedback between winter sea ice and the North Atlantic Oscillation. J. Clim. 22, 6021–6032 (2009).

  64. 64.

    , & Analysis of a link between fall Arctic sea ice concentration and atmospheric patterns in the following winter. Tellus A 64, 18624 (2012).

  65. 65.

    , & The effects of North Atlantic SST and sea-ice anomalies on the winter circulation in CCM3. Part I: Main features and storm track characteristics of the response. J. Clim. 17, 857–876 (2004).

  66. 66.

    , , & The effects of North Atlantic SST and sea-ice anomalies on the winter circulation in CCM3. Part II: Direct and indirect components of the response. J. Clim. 17, 877–889 (2004).

  67. 67.

    et al. The atmospheric response to realistic Arctic sea ice anomalies in an AGCM during winter. J. Clim. 17, 890–905 (2004).

  68. 68.

    , & The 2007 sea ice minimum: impacts on the Northern Hemisphere atmosphere in late autumn and early winter. J. Geophys. Res. 115, D23103 (2010).

  69. 69.

    , & Local and large-scale atmospheric responses to reduced Arctic sea ice and ocean warming in the WRF model. J. Geophys. Res. 117, D11115 (2012).

  70. 70.

    , & Atmospheric response to the extreme Arctic sea ice conditions in 2007. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L02707 (2012).

  71. 71.

    , , & Autumn atmospheric response to the 2007 low Arctic sea ice extent in coupled ocean–atmosphere hindcasts. Clim. Dynam. 38, 2437–2448 (2012).

  72. 72.

    , & The atmospheric impact of uncertainties in recent Arctic sea-ice reconstructions. J. Clim. 18, 3996–4012 (2005).

  73. 73.

    , , & Atmospheric impacts of Arctic sea-ice loss, 1979–2009: separating forced change from atmospheric internal variability. Clim. Dynam. 43, 333–344 (2013).

  74. 74.

    & Response of the wintertime Northern Hemispheric atmospheric circulation to current and projected Arctic sea ice decline: a numerical study with CAM5. J. Clim. 27, 244–264 (2014).

  75. 75.

    & Development of a three-dimensional spectral linear baroclinic model and its application to the baroclinic instability associated with positive and negative Arctic Oscillation indices. J. Meteorol. Soc. Jpn 91, 193–213 (2013).

  76. 76.

    & Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L06801 (2012).

  77. 77.

    , , & Quasiresonant amplification of planetary waves and recent Northern Hemisphere weather extremes. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 110, 5336–5341 (2013).

  78. 78.

    & Amplified mid-latitude planetary waves favour particular regional weather extremes. Nature Clim. Change (2014).

  79. 79.

    Revisiting the evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in midlatitudes. Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 1–6 (2013).

  80. 80.

    & Warming maximum in the tropical upper troposphere deduced from thermal winds. Nature Geosci. 1, 399–403 (2008).

  81. 81.

    & Exploring links between Arctic amplification and mid-latitude weather. Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 959–964 (2013).

  82. 82.

    , , & Exploring recent trends in Northern Hemisphere blocking. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, 638–644 (2014).

  83. 83.

    Into the maelstrom. Science 344, 250–253 (2014).

  84. 84.

    , , & The dynamical response to snow cover perturbations in a large ensemble of atmospheric GCM integrations. J. Clim. 22, 1208–1222 (2009).

  85. 85.

    & Forcing of the Arctic Oscillation by Eurasian snow cover. J. Clim. 24, 6528–6539 (2011).

  86. 86.

    , , , , & Linking Siberian snow cover to precursors of stratospheric variability. J. Clim. 27, 5422–5432 (2014).

  87. 87.

    , & A numerical sensitivity study of the influence of Siberian snow on the northern annular mode. J. Clim. 25, 592–607 (2012).

  88. 88.

    & A link between reduced Barents-Kara sea ice and cold winter extremes over northern continents. J. Geophys. Res. 115, D21111 (2010).

  89. 89.

    , & The role of Barents Sea ice in the wintertime cyclone track and emergence of a warm-Arctic cold-Siberian anomaly. J. Clim. 25, 2561–2568 (2012).

  90. 90.

    , , , & Impact of sea ice cover changes on the Northern Hemisphere atmospheric winter circulation. Tellus A 64, 11595 (2012).

  91. 91.

    , & Stratospheric response to Arctic sea ice retreat and associated planetary wave propagation changes. Tellus A 65, 19375 (2013).

  92. 92.

    , & Influence of low Arctic sea-ice minima on anomalously cold Eurasian winters. Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L08707 (2009).

  93. 93.

    , & Investigating the ability of general circulation models to capture the effects of Eurasian snow cover on winter climate. J. Geophys. Res. 113, D21123 (2008).

  94. 94.

    & Transient twenty-first century changes in daily-scale temperature extremes in the United States. Clim. Dynam. 42, 1383–1404 (2014).

  95. 95.

    et al. The ERA-Interim reanalysis: configuration and performance of the data assimilation system. Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc. 137, 553–597 (2011).

  96. 96.

    & Global trends of measured surface air temperature. J. Geophys. Res. 92, 13345–13372 (1987).

  97. 97.

    & The steady linear response of a spherical atmosphere to thermal and orographic forcing. J. Atmos. Sci. 38, 1179–1196 (1981).

  98. 98.

    , & Tropospheric precursors of anomalous Northern Hemisphere stratospheric polar cortices. J. Clim. 23, 3282–3299 (2010).

  99. 99.

    & Observed and simulated precursors of stratospheric polar vortex anomalies in the Northern Hemisphere. Clim. Dynam. 37, 1443–1456 (2010).

  100. 100.

    & Tropospheric precursors and stratospheric warmings. J. Clim. 24, 6562–6572 (2011).

Download references

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to E. Barnes for many helpful discussions and suggested revisions to the manuscript. J.C. is supported by the National Science Foundation grants BCS-1060323 and AGS-1303647. J.S. is funded by Natural Environment Research Council grant NE/J019585/1. M.B. received support from National Science Foundation grant ARC-0909272 and NASA NNX13AN36G. J.O. receives support from the Arctic Research Project of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Program Office and the Office of Naval Research, Code 322.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc., Lexington, Massachusetts 02421, USA

    • Judah Cohen
    • , Jason C. Furtado
    •  & Justin Jones
  2. College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, Devon EX4 4QF, UK

    • James A. Screen
  3. Department of Environmental, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts 01854, USA

    • Mathew Barlow
  4. The Climate Change Initiative, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts 01854, USA

    • Mathew Barlow
  5. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02139, USA

    • David Whittleston
    •  & Dara Entekhabi
  6. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research — Earth System Analysis, 14412 Potsdam, Germany

    • Dim Coumou
  7. Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, USA

    • Jennifer Francis
  8. Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, AWI Potsdam 14473, Germany

    • Klaus Dethloff
  9. Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle, Washington 98115, USA

    • James Overland

Authors

  1. Search for Judah Cohen in:

  2. Search for James A. Screen in:

  3. Search for Jason C. Furtado in:

  4. Search for Mathew Barlow in:

  5. Search for David Whittleston in:

  6. Search for Dim Coumou in:

  7. Search for Jennifer Francis in:

  8. Search for Klaus Dethloff in:

  9. Search for Dara Entekhabi in:

  10. Search for James Overland in:

  11. Search for Justin Jones in:

Contributions

J.C. proposed and was the main author of the manuscript. All co-authors contributed to the writing of the manuscript. J.S. created Fig. 1, J.F. Figs 2 & 4, D.C. Fig. 3, J.F. and J.C. Fig. 4, M.B. and J.C. Fig. B1, and D.W. and J.C. Fig. B2.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Judah Cohen.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    AA and mid-latitude weather outside of winter