We've been talking a lot about the ice loss in the Arctic. It’s a broadly understood marker of climate change, an immediately tangible metric that shifts every day (it hit a new all-time low yesterday!).
But this year's unprecedented melt could also have direct effects on you this year.
[T]his year’s record sea-ice melt might foreshadow a harsh winter in parts of Europe and North America. Recent research, although preliminary, suggests a connection between late-summer Arctic sea-ice extent and the location of areas of high and low atmospheric pressure over the northern Atlantic. The highs and lows can remain relatively fixed for weeks, shaping storm tracks and seasonal weather patterns such as extended cold surges.
Ralf Jaiser, a climate scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Potsdam, Germany, found a significant correlation in 1989–2011 meteorological data between late-summer Arctic sea-ice extent and atmospheric-pressure anomalies that favour extreme weather such as prolonged cold snaps in winter. He reasons that in autumn, the open Arctic Ocean sheds heat to the high-latitude atmosphere. The warming tends to reduce the large-scale atmospheric-pressure gradient and weakens the dominant westerly winds in the Northern Hemisphere. Those winds normally sweep warm, moist Atlantic air to western Europe; their weakening leaves the region more prone to persistent cold.
“The impacts will become more apparent in autumn, once the freeze-up is under way and we see how circulation patterns have influenced the geographical distribution of sea ice,” says Judith Curry, a climate researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. But, she adds, “We can probably expect somewhere in the mid/high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere to have a snowy and cold winter.”