Harsher, Longer Winters Here to Stay?

Scientists: As Arctic continues to warm, winters in northern US and Europe not likely to let up

As a result of steadily climbing Arctic temperatures, the polar jet stream has been thrown off its usual course, setting off wild weather patterns such as the extremely harsh winter in the Northern and Eastern U.S. this year. This chilly reality is likely to become the new norm, a group of U.S. scientists said at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Saturday.

"The jet stream, a ribbon of high altitude, high-speed wind in northern latitudes that blows from west to east, is formed when the cold Arctic air clashes with warmer air from further south," Agence France-Presse explains. "The greater the difference in temperature, the faster the jet stream moves." Because the air coming from the Arctic is warming, the jet stream has weakened and "has begun to meander, like a river heading off course."

"Weather patterns are changing," said Jennifer Francis, a climate expert at Rutgers University, at the meeting. "We can expect more of the same and we can expect it to happen more frequently."

Temperatures in the Arctic have been rising "two to three times faster than the rest of the planet," said James Overland, a weather expert with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

This trend could in turn see the increasingly harsh winters in Northern U.S. and Europe continue into the unforeseeable future.


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