Letter | Published:

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

Nature Geoscience volume 8, pages 759762 (2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

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).

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Affiliations

  1. School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), 37673 Pohang, Korea

    • Jong-Seong Kug
    • , Yeon-Soo Jang
    •  & Seung-Ki Min
  2. Department of Oceanography, Chonnam National University, 61186 Gwangju, Korea

    • Jee-Hoon Jeong
  3. Korea Polar Research Institute, 21990 Incheon, Korea

    • Baek-Min Kim
  4. Met Office Hadley Centre, Exeter EX1 3PB, UK

    • Chris K. Folland
  5. Department of Earth Sciences, University of Gothenburg, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden

    • Chris K. Folland
  6. School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Seoul National University, 00826 Seoul, Korea

    • Seok-Woo Son

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Contributions

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.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jee-Hoon Jeong.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2517

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