Feeling Colder As The World Grows Warmer? You're Not Alone.

Believe it or not, research shows warmer temperatures are causing winters to be colder and snowier.

Global warming isn't just making temperatures across the world warmer; it's also making weather events more extreme. Though it may be harder to believe, new research shows that warmer temperatures are causing winters to be colder and snowier.


As reported by Popular Science, in a study published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Societythis September, researchers in North America and Europe found that global warming is affecting the polar vortex and the polar vortex, in turn, is affecting our winters.

The polar vortex is a large area of cold air and low pressure surrounding the North and South Poles. Normally, a counter-clockwise flow of air at the vortex's edge helps trap the cold air, the researchers said. However, because of global warming, sea ice north of Scandinavia and Russia is melting, making the surrounding ocean warmer. That warmer water sends warm air as far as 18 miles into the stratosphere, weakening that counter-clockwise airflow, meaning more cold air can breach the vortex and head south.

Denis Burdin / Shutterstock

Using data from latitudes above 60° N between 1979 and 2015, the researchers found that the strength of the polar vortex correlates with the average surface temperature. When the polar vortex is weaker, lower latitudes tend to experience colder winters.

"We found that there's a shift towards more-persistent weak states of the polar vortex," co-author Marlene Kretschmer said in a statement, per Mashable. "This allows frigid air to break out of the Arctic and threaten Russia and Europe with cold extremes."

This is perhaps why Boston was hit with a record 107.6 inches of snowfall in the 2014-2015 winter instead of its average of 43 inches… or why temperatures in Russia plummeted to -58° F in 2012, a 70-year low… or why 15 inches of snow fell in Stockholm in November 2016, the snowiest November the Swedish city has seen in 111 years.

"Our latest findings not only confirm the link between a weak polar vortex and severe winter weather but also calculated how much of the observed cooling in regions like Russia and Scandinavia is linked to the weakening vortex. It turns out to be most," co-author Judah Cohen said in a statement, per Popular Science. "Several types of weather extremes are on the rise with climate change, and our study adds evidence that this can also include cold spells, which is an unpleasant surprise for these regions."

Shutterstock / obert mcgillivray

So what can we do to save the sea ice? We can cut down on our carbon emissions, for one. A study published in Science last year showed that for every ton of carbon dioxide we don't emit saves 32 square feet of sea ice.

"It suddenly becomes very clear how we all contribute to this loss of Arctic sea ice," Dirk Notz, a co-author on that study, told National Geographic. "It's not something that happens by chance. Whenever we fly somewhere or drive our car, we can sit down afterwards and calculate how much sea ice we've just melted."

Meanwhile, Polar Bears International has offered a list of "Actions with the Greatest Impact" on the preservation of sea ice — e.g. voting for representatives who take action on carbon emissions, taking public transportation, using LED light bulbs, consuming minimally-packaged foods, and buying products created closer to home.

After all, as the name of that organization implies, it's not just about making winters more hospitable for us humans; it's about making the Arctic more hospitable for all the wildlife that calls it home.


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