Scientists: Arctic Melting Leading to Europe's Freeze

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Common Dreams

Scientists: Arctic Melting Leading to Europe's Freeze

Is Climate Change Bringing the Arctic to Europe?

by
Common Dreams staff

Bulgarian women walk through heavy snow Saturday, January 28 in Rakovski. (Getty)

The unusual cold weather in eastern Europe has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of vulnerable people living in areas unprepared for the freezing conditions. Extreme weather events have been increasingly evident in recent years, and now scientests are fearful that the 'feedback loops' of climate change are occurring in ways that uphold predictions made by global warming models showing how seemingly unrelated occurrences, such as the melting of ice in the arctic, are noticeably changing weather patterns in faraway regions.

According to Reuters today:

Bitterly cold weather sweeping across Europe claimed more victims on Sunday and brought widespread disruption to transport services, with warnings that the chilling temperatures would remain into next week.

Hundreds have lost their lives in eastern Europe as freezing weather sweeps across the continent westwards, while major airports warned that services would be delayed or cancelled.

Steven Keates, a weather forecaster at Britain's Met Office, said the severe wintry conditions were expected to last, and spread to other areas.

"It will still be very cold, maybe not quite the exceptional temperatures we've seen this last week, but still very cold," he told Reuters, saying the current front which brought snow and ice to Britain overnight was now heading to Belgium and Germany.

The Independent reports:

Studies by scientists at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research have confirmed a link between the loss of Arctic sea ice and the development of high-pressure zones in the polar region, which influence wind patterns at lower latitudes further south. Scientists found that as the cap of sea ice is removed from the ocean, huge amounts of heat are released from the sea into the colder air above, causing the air to rise. Rising air destabilises the atmosphere and alters the difference in air pressure between the Arctic and more southerly regions, changing wind patterns.

Professor Rahmstorf said the Alfred Wegener study confirms earlier predictions from computer models by Vladimir Petoukhov of the Potsdam Institute, who forecast colder winters in western Europe as a result of melting sea ice.

Dr Petoukhov and his colleague Vladimir Semenov were among the first scientists to suggest a link between the loss of sea ice and colder winters in Europe. Their 2009 study simulated the effects of disappearing sea ice and found that for some years to come the loss will increase the chances of colder winters.

"Whoever thinks that the shrinking of some far-away sea ice won't bother him could be wrong. There are complex interconnections in the climate system, and in the Barents-Kara Sea we might have discovered a powerful feedback mechanism," Dr Petoukhov said.

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