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Extreme Winter Weather Across US and Europe Linked to Unusually Warm Arctic Temperatures

"This winter is a great example of what we can expect from climate change."

Burgerbukta Glacier in the Arctic. Warmer temperatures in the Arctic have helped to cause extreme winter weather conditions, like the snowstorm experienced on the United States' East Coast on Tuesday.(Photo: Gary Bembridge/Flickr/cc)

As both those in North America and Europea have experienced bitter cold snaps and heavy snowfall this winter, climate scientists have recorded an exceptionally warm season in the Arctic Circle and researchers say that while global warming has caused warmer temperatures around the globe overall there is also a strong link between the climate crisis and extreme winter weather events.

"This winter is a great example of what we can expect from climate change," Judah Cohen, a climate scientist at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, told  the Guardian. "In the U.S. we had the 'bomb cyclone' in January, followed by July-like warm weather in February that I'd never seen before. And now we've had a parade of powerful winter storms and the beast from the east. It's mind boggling."

Cohen's research was published by Nature Communications on Tuesday ust as the U.S. East Coast was hit by its third severe snowstorm in ten days. As CNN notes, the study "found that major winter storms were two to four times more likely when the Arctic is abnormally warm, compared to when it was abnormally cold."

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This week's severe weather followed some of the longest-lasting warm weather ever recorded in the Arctic Circle in the month of February, with more than 60 hours of above-freezing temperatures logged. As Common Dreams  reported last week, scientists had previously only observed the temperature climbing above freezing twice in February, both for short periods of time. 

The new research out Tuesay suggests that the polar vortex has been disrupted by the warming of the globe. Warming temperatures have weakened the low pressure system's flow, argue climate scientists, causing it to drift southward from the polar region—and to bring cold Arctic air along with it.

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