Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Letter
  • Published:

Two distinct influences of Arctic warming on cold winters over North America and East Asia


Arctic warming has sparked a growing interest because of its possible impacts on mid-latitude climate1,2,3,4,5. A number of unusually harsh cold winters have occurred in many parts of East Asia and North America in the past few years2,6,7, and observational and modelling studies have suggested that atmospheric variability linked to Arctic warming might have played a central role1,3,4,8,9,10,11. Here we identify two distinct influences of Arctic warming which may lead to cold winters over East Asia or North America, based on observational analyses and extensive climate model results. We find that severe winters across East Asia are associated with anomalous warmth in the Barents–Kara Sea region, whereas severe winters over North America are related to anomalous warmth in the East Siberian–Chukchi Sea region. Each regional warming over the Arctic Ocean is accompanied by the local development of an anomalous anticyclone and the downstream development of a mid-latitude trough. The resulting northerly flow of cold air provides favourable conditions for severe winters in East Asia or North America. These links between Arctic and mid-latitude weather are also robustly found in idealized climate model experiments and CMIP5 multi-model simulations. We suggest that our results may help improve seasonal prediction of winter weather and extreme events in these regions.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: SAT trends and Arctic temperature (ART) indices.
Figure 2: Relationships between Arctic temperature and SAT over the NH extratropics.
Figure 3: Atmospheric circulation anomalies linked to Arctic temperature.
Figure 4: Modelling support on the relationships between Arctic temperature and SAT over the NH extratropics.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Francis, J. A. & Vavrus, S. J. Evidence for a wavier jet stream in response to rapid Arctic warming. Environ. Res. Lett. 10, 014005 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Wallace, J. M., Held, I. M., Thompson, D. W., Trenberth, K. E. & Walsh, J. E. Global warming and winter weather. Science 343, 729–730 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Outten, S. D. & Esau, I. A link between Arctic sea ice and recent cooling trends over Eurasia. Climatic Change 110, 1069–1075 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Screen, J. A. & Simmonds, I. Amplified mid-latitude planetary waves favour particular regional weather extremes. Nature Clim. Change 4, 704–709 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Cohen, J. et al. Recent Arctic amplification and extreme mid-latitude weather. Nature Geosci. 7, 627–637 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Van Oldenborgh, G. J., Haarsma, R., De Vries, H. & Allen, M. R. Cold extremes in North America vs. mild weather in Europe: The winter of 2013–14 in the context of a warming world. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 96, 707–714 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Wang, L. & Chen, W. The East Asian winter monsoon: Re-amplification in the mid-2000s. Chin. Sci. Bull. 59, 430–436 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Kim, B. M. et al. Weakening of the stratospheric polar vortex by Arctic sea-ice loss. Nature Commun. 5, 4646 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Tang, Q. H., Zhang, X. J., Yang, X. H. & Francis, J. A. Cold winter extremes in northern continents linked to Arctic sea ice loss. Environ. Res. Lett. 8, 014036 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Screen, J. A. & Simmonds, I. Exploring links between Arctic amplification and mid-latitude weather. Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 959–964 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Honda, M., Inoue, J. & Yamane, S. Influence of low Arctic sea-ice minima on anomalously cold Eurasian winters. Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L08707 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Hartmann, D. L. et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) 159–254 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

    Google Scholar 

  13. Simmonds, I. Comparing and contrasting the behaviour of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice over the 35-year period 1979–2013. Ann. Glaciol. 56, 18–28 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Cohen, J. L., Furtado, J. C., Barlow, M., Alexeev, V. A. & Cherry, J. E. Asymmetric seasonal temperature trends. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L04705 (2012).

    Google Scholar 

  15. Francis, J. A. & Vavrus, S. J. Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L06801 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

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

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Liu, J., Curry, J. A., Wang, H., Song, M. & Horton, R. M. Impact of declining Arctic sea ice on winter snowfall. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 4074–4079 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Inoue, J., Hori, M. E. & Takaya, K. 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).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Screen, J. A., Deser, C., Simmonds, I. & Tomas, R. Atmospheric impacts of Arctic sea-ice loss, 1979–2009: Separating forced change from atmospheric internal variability. Clim. Dynam. 43, 333–344 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Fischer, E. M. & Knutti, R. Heated debate on cold weather. Nature Clim. Change 4, 537–538 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Mori, M., Watanabe, M., Shiogama, H., Inoue, J. & Kimoto, M. Robust Arctic sea-ice influence on the frequent Eurasian cold winters in past decades. Nature Geosci. 7, 869–873 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Deser, C., Tomas, R., Alexander, M. & Lawrence, D. The seasonal atmospheric response to projected Arctic Sea ice loss in the late twenty-first century. J. Clim. 23, 333–351 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Overland, J. E., Wood, K. R. & Wang, M. Y. Warm Arctic-cold continents: Climate impacts of the newly open Arctic Sea. Polar Res. 30, 15787 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Hopsch, S., Cohen, J. & Dethloff, K. Analysis of a link between fall Arctic sea ice concentration and atmospheric patterns in the following winter. Tellus A 64, 18624 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Scaife, A. A. et al. Skillful long-range prediction of European and North American winters. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, 2514–2519 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Budikova, D. Role of Arctic sea ice in global atmospheric circulation: A review. Glob. Planet. Change 68, 149–163 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

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

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Takaya, K. & Nakamura, H. Geographical dependence of upper-level blocking formation associated with intraseasonal amplification of the Siberian high. J. Atmos. Sci. 62, 4441–4449 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Zhang, Y., Sperber, K. R. & Boyle, J. S. Climatology and interannual variation of the East Asian Winter Monsoon: Results from the 1979–95 NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis. Mon. Weath. Rev. 125, 2605–2619 (1997).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Sato, K., Inoue, J. & Watanabe, M. Influence of the Gulf Stream on the Barents Sea ice retreat and Eurasian coldness during early winter. Environ. Res. Lett. 9, 084009 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Renwick, J. A. & Wallace, J. M. Relationships between North Pacific wintertime blocking, El Nino, and the PNA pattern. Mon. Weath. Rev. 124, 2071–2076 (1996).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Cowtan, K. & Way, R. G. Coverage bias in the HadCRUT4 temperature series and its impact on recent temperature trends. Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc. 140, 1935–1944 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


J.-S.K. was supported by National Research Foundation (NRF-2014R1A2A2A01003827). J.-H.J. was supported by Korea Polar Research Institute project (PE15010). B.-M.K. was supported by Korea Meteorological Administration Research and Development Program (KMIPA2015-2093). C.K.F. was supported by the Joint UK DECC/Defra Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme (GA01101).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



J.-S.K. and J.-H.J. designed the research, conducted analyses, and wrote the majority of the manuscript content. B.-M.K., C.K.F., S.-K.M. and S.-W.S. conducted the analysis and report-writing tasks. Y.-S.J. conducted analyses, numerical experiments and prepared figures. All the authors discussed the study results and reviewed the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jee-Hoon Jeong.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Information (PDF 2617 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kug, JS., Jeong, JH., Jang, YS. et al. Two distinct influences of Arctic warming on cold winters over North America and East Asia. Nature Geosci 8, 759–762 (2015).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing