New Study Claims Global Warming Is Making Siberian Winters Even Colder

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

Siberian winters are getting colder, but some scientists argue the increasingly frigid weather over the last 15 years or so is actually the product of man-made global warming.

On the heels of claims that global warming was making U.S. winters colder, a climate model-based study published Wednesday claims to have established a link between shrinking Arctic sea ice coverage and colder weather in Eurasia. Authors say the new study could improve understanding of the link between Arctic warming and cold mid-latitude weather.

“From this paper, we found the high-level atmosphere is critically important for the occurrence of cooling events over the Eurasian midlatitudes,” co-author Xiangdong Zhang, a scientist at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, told E&E News.

Zhang’s paper is only the latest to try to connect melting sea ice to cold outbreaks in Siberia. It’s not a well-accepted link in the climate science community and many studies don’t find a link between sea ice retreat and Siberian cold.

The idea is that as sea ice retreats more open ocean is exposed to the sun, causing a shift in stratospheric airflow. The shift in airflow affects the tropospheric airflow, which taken together leads to persistent outbreaks of cold in Siberia.

Some scientists have tried to link sea ice loss to colder winters in the U.S., including the plunge in east coast temperatures experienced around News Year’s Eve. (RELATED: New Study Claims Global Warming Will Cause Thousands More To Commit Suicide)

A major proponent of this theory is Rutgers University scientist Jennifer Francis who argued last winter’s deep freeze “confirmed” her theory that Arctic warming is making the eastern U.S. colder in winter.

However, her most recent study on the matter admitted “correlation is not causation,” meaning she had no hypothesis behind why she claimed to have observed Arctic warming impacting the U.S.

Also, the latest National Climate Assessment special report notes that “confidence is low regarding whether or by what mechanisms observed arctic warming may have influenced the midlatitude circulation and weather patterns over the continental United States.”

Zhang’s study also notes that not all Arctic sea ice retreat results in colder weather. The study actually argues that sea ice declines in other regions may actually make Siberian winters more mild than they would otherwise be.

Zhang and his colleagues, however, claim that when “the stratospheric polar vortex anomaly is removed through a simple linear regression analysis, the Siberian cold anomaly reduces to about half, suggesting a possible critical role of the stratospheric pathway.”

“This paper adds more information, strong information, about this linkage,” Zhang told E&E News. “But we still need to figure out why some other models cannot simulate this linkage.”

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