5.3 Evidence relating diminished Arctic sea ice to Siberian snow cover

Wednesday, 4 May 2011: 9:00 AM
Rooftop Ballroom (15th Floor) (Omni Parker House )
Allan Frei, Hunter College, New York, NY; and D. Ghatak, J. Stroeve, G. Gong, D. A. Robinson, and J. Cohen

Low temperatures over land areas on both sides of the North Atlantic Ocean during the winter of 2010-2011 have made front-page news. In some quarters this has shed doubt on the question of whether there truly is a global warming trend, and in other quarters has brought to prominence the notion that more variable weather, including more extreme winters in these regions, may be part of the signature of Arctic warming, which has been more dramatic than over other regions. The anomalous Arctic warming is widely attributed to a rapidly declining Arctic sea ice.

We examine evidence for an impact of diminished sea ice on snow cover extent across Siberia. Both empirical and modeling studies are evaluated to determine whether trends in sea ice, atmospheric temperatures, and Eurasian snow cover; cyclonic activity and precipitation patterns / intensity; snow cover; and atmospheric circulation patterns are consistent with any physical mechanisms linking declining sea ice to increasing Siberian snow cover. We find that observed trends are consistent with such a mechanism, that the evidence is thus far inconclusive, and that more conclusive evidence is likely to appear within the next two decades. This process is one component of a three-component feedback cycle involving Arctic sea ice, Eurasian snow cover, and the Arctic Oscillation, which is hypothesized to modulate Arctic climate, and through atmospheric circulation, may also affect extreme winters over Western Europe and Eastern North America.

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