As ice melts and wind patterns change, the relationship between arctic warming and cold winters becomes layered with complexity. The question is if the Arctic — and areas affected by it — can handle the unanticipated change in weather.
The temperature shift has changed the patterns of some of the most influential wind habits. Increased heat altered the behavior of the polar vortices, causing them to dip below the stratosphere where they typically reside. It usually travels in a circular pattern, but its trajectory changed alongside arctic warming.
Winds flowing more southerly created unexpected cold waves in North America and Asia, specifically in the United States and Russia. The melting sea ice causes an increase in precipitation, having a domino effect on the strength and makeup of storms.
Some scientists do not think this is the primary cause, as humans have been observing atmospheric patterns for decades — and something doesn’t add up. When executing models using historical data to predict the behavior of weather patterns based on arctic warming, not every simulation provides the same results.
There may still be too many variables, such as sea surface temperatures or how frequently the winds split into smaller, diverting vortices, causing discrepancies in the outcomes.
For areas where this isn’t typical, it could cause entire cities — especially smaller communities — to fall in disarray, unprepared for that kind of weather event. Roadways may not be built to handle freezing temperatures and power companies may not be outfitted with suitable materials and resources to recover as soon as possible.
This leaves families’ livelihoods at risk, as people unfamiliar with the side effects of dangerously cold temperatures and unexpected snow or rainfall may not have enough food or generators to ride out a blackout comfortably. It doesn’t just harm humans, though, as entire ecosystems scatter and suffer. Biodiversity takes an extreme hit since they are not only in danger but cannot perform their natural functions as expected.
Plants and soil both emit and capture carbon, regulating the atmosphere. Warmer arctic weather causes this process to be less efficient and plants and soil absorb less than average. This discrepancy only exacerbates the issue and reflects how other wildlife suffers with these changes.
Experts and citizens alike can help mitigate the effects of arctic warming by engaging in environmentalist activities to reduce carbon emissions.
Professionals in the field can enhance detection technologies for more accurate meteorological engagement. This includes using machine learning to more accurately analyze historical data to predict how far the polar vortices can stretch as time progresses. Simultaneously, citizens can prepare for weather events to survive comfortably and safely. Doing so includes:
- Creating a stock of non-perishable food.
- Having plenty of candles, flashlights and batteries.
- Making warm clothing stores easily accessible.
- Seeking out technologies like smart thermostats and generators to help predict weather and increase resilience.
If forecasting becomes more precise, experts could identify trends even further in advance than they can now. This could allow cities to respond by treating roads and informing inhabitants appropriately, especially if evacuation in severe cases is necessary.
In the meantime, humans can advocate for habitual and behavioral change to reduce, remove and repair greenhouse gases. The cold winters signify the extremes all types of weather will take — including heat. This will cause more hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters as the wind patterns and temperature disparities confuse natural operations.
Though analyses reveal more to learn, the relationship between cold winters and arctic warming is likely. The unknowns include how much harder the winters could get as the Arctic melts, releasing energy into the atmosphere to stoke weather patterns. The most humans can do to have a positive impact is to raise awareness of their influence on climate change. Until this improves, prepare for frigid weather accordingly.
See more posts from Jane Marsh at environment.co
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