National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2016

A difficult Arctic science issue: Mid-latitude weather linkages

Overland, J.E.

Polar Sci., 10(3), 210–216, doi: 10.1016/j.polar.2016.04.011 (2016)

There is at present unresolved uncertainty whether Arctic amplification (increased air temperatures and loss of sea ice) impacts the location and intensities of recent major weather events in midlatitudes. There are three major impediments. The first is the null hypothesis where the shortness of time series since major amplification (∼15 years) is dominated by the variance of the physical process in the attribution calculation. This makes it impossible to robustly distinguish the influence of Arctic forcing of regional circulation from random events. The second is the large chaotic jet stream variability at midlatitudes producing a small Arctic forcing signal-to-noise ratio. Third, there are other potential external forcings of hemispheric circulation, such as teleconnections driven by tropical and midlatitude sea surface temperature anomalies. It is, however, important to note and understand recent emerging case studies. There is evidence for a causal connection of Barents-Kara sea ice loss, a stronger Siberian High, and cold air outbreaks into eastern Asia. Recent cold air penetrating into the southeastern United States was related to a shift in the long-wave atmospheric wind pattern and reinforced by warmer temperatures west of Greenland. Arctic Linkages is a major research challenge that benefits from an international focus on the topic.

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