Divergent consensuses on Arctic amplification influence on midlatitude severe winter weather


The Arctic has warmed more than twice as fast as the global average since the late twentieth century, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification (AA). Recently, there have been considerable advances in understanding the physical contributions to AA, and progress has been made in understanding the mechanisms that link it to midlatitude weather variability. Observational studies overwhelmingly support that AA is contributing to winter continental cooling. Although some model experiments support the observational evidence, most modelling results show little connection between AA and severe midlatitude weather or suggest the export of excess heating from the Arctic to lower latitudes. Divergent conclusions between model and observational studies, and even intramodel studies, continue to obfuscate a clear understanding of how AA is influencing midlatitude weather.

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Fig. 1: Observed and ensemble mean temperature trends show large discrepancies in winter.
Fig. 2: Mechanisms of Arctic amplification are complicated.
Fig. 3: Observed and simulated winter temperature relationships to Arctic warming share similarities regionally.
Fig. 4: Observed and simulated midlatitude winter temperature trends are diverging.

Data availability

The air-temperature data in AMIP simulations and detailed forcing information for Fig. 1 are available at: https://go.nature.com/34c5lJT. Data and detailed model simulation information for Supplementary Fig. 5 can be found at: https://go.nature.com/34c5lJT. Data for Supplementary Fig. 7 are from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/snow-and-ice/rsi/nesis. All other data that support the findings of this study are available within the paper and its Supplementary Information files.


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We thank R. Blackport, C. Deser, L. Sun, J. Screen and D. Smith for discussions and suggested revisions to the manuscript. We also thank J. Screen and L. Sun for model data. A. Amin helped to create Fig. 2. US CLIVAR logistically and financially supported the Arctic-Midlatitude Working Group and Arctic Change and its Influence on Mid-Latitude Climate and Weather workshop that resulted in this article. J.C. is supported by the US National Science Foundation grants AGS-1657748 and PLR-1504361, 1901352. M.W. acknowledges funding by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft project no. 268020496–TRR 172, within the Transregional Collaborative Research Center “Arctic Amplification: Climate Relevant Atmospheric and Surface Processes, and Feedback Mechanisms (AC)3”. T.V. was supported by the Academy of Finland grant 317999. J.O. was supported by the NOAA Arctic Research Program. J.F. was supported by the Woods Hole Research Center. S.W. and H.G. are supported by the US DOE Award Number DE-SC0016605. J.Y. was supported by the Korea Meteorological Administration Research and Development Program under grant KMI2018-01015 and National Research Foundation grant NRF_2017R1A2B4007480. D.H. is supported by the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers (grant FKZ HRSF-0036, project POLEX). The authors acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and thank the climate modelling groups (listed in Supplementary Table 1) for producing and making available their model output. For CMIP, the US Department of Energy’s PCMDI provides coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals.

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J.C. and X.Z. co-led the review and designed the synthesis research. J.C. took a lead in writing the article with input from X.Z., J.F., J.O., P.C.T., S.L., D.C., D.H., T.S., T.V., T.J. and all the other authors. F.L. created Fig. 1. P.C.T. and S.L. together with A. Amin created Fig. 2. J.C. and K.P. created Fig. 3. J. Cohen and K.P. created Fig. 4. J.C. created the figures for Box 1 and Box 2. J.F. assisted with manuscript revision.

Correspondence to J. Cohen.

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Supplementary Figs 1–12, Supplementary Discussion

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Cohen, J., Zhang, X., Francis, J. et al. Divergent consensuses on Arctic amplification influence on midlatitude severe winter weather. Nat. Clim. Chang. 10, 20–29 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-019-0662-y

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