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Sunday, December 8, 2013

"Extreme summer weather in northern mid-latitudes linked to a vanishing cryosphere," by Qiuhong Tang, Xuejun Zhang & Jennifer A. Francis, Nature Climate Change

Nature Climate Change, (2013); doi:10.1038/nclimate2065

Extreme summer weather in northern mid-latitudes linked to a vanishing cryosphere


The past decade has seen an exceptional number of unprecedented summer extreme weather events1234 in northern mid-latitudes, along with record declines in both summer Arctic sea ice5,6 and snow cover on high-latitude land7. The underlying mechanisms that link the shrinking cryosphere with summer extreme weather, however, remain unclear89101112. Here, we combine satellite observations of early summer snow cover and summer sea-ice extent13 with atmospheric reanalysis data14 to demonstrate associations between summer weather patterns in mid-latitudes and losses of snow and sea ice. Results suggest that the atmospheric circulation responds differently to changes in the ice and snow extents, with a stronger response to sea-ice loss, even though its reduction is half as large as that for the snow cover. Atmospheric changes associated with the combined snow/ice reductions reveal widespread upper-level height increases, weaker upper-level zonal winds at high latitudes, a more amplified upper-level pattern, and a general northward shift in the jet stream. More frequent extreme summer heat events over mid-latitude continents are linked with reduced sea ice and snow through these circulation changes.

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