February 27, 2012--Study: Less Arctic ice means more U.S. snow (USA Today)

Most of the USA may have had a reprieve from crippling snowstorms so far this year, but remember the brutal winter of 2010-11? Continued onslaughts of frigid air and brutal blizzards made for a savage and deadly cold season across the country. Although it may be counterintuitive, frigid winters like last year's could be more commonplace in years to come, and the culprit might be diminishing Arctic sea ice, according to a study released today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "The recent decline of Arctic sea ice has played a critical role in recent cold and snowy winters," the authors write in the study. The study's lead authors are Jiping Liu and Judith Curry of Georgia Tech. "Pronounced loss of ice may alter atmospheric circulation patterns," Liu and Curry suggest in the study, "weakening the westerly winds that blow across the North Atlantic Ocean from Canada to Europe…. The weakened westerly winds may, in turn, enhance blocking patterns that favor frequent incursions of cold air masses from the Arctic into northern continents." Additionally, Liu says that the increased humidity due to the open water of the ice-free Arctic can help provide the fuel that's needed to increase the snowfall.

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