Midlatitude winter anomalies could become less predictable, study shows

The Arctic-midlatitude teleconnection will become a less reliable predictor of midlatitude winter anomalies in a warmer future.

This pattern emerged from a new study by an international team of scientists from Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology Researchers (GIST) of Gwangju, South Korea, who investigated the future of the correlation between the warming taking place in the Arctic region and the cold weather events happening in the middle latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.

We found that the relationship between Arctic warming and cold weather events in midlatitude would become more uncertain under warmer climates, challenging the forecast of winter temperature in the future.- Yungi Hong, Ph.D student at Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology

“Our study shows that while one can expect the Arctic warming-triggered cold waves in the midlatitudes to persist in a warmer future, they will become more difficult to predict.” Said Prof. Jin-Ho Yoon, from the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology.

The impact of climate change in the Arctic 

The Arctic region has been warming faster than the rest of the planet under the impact of climate change in a phenomenon called Arctic Amplification (AA). According to a 2022 study by researchers from Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland, since 1979, the Arctic has warmed about four times faster than the rest of the Earth.

Due to a phenomenon called Arctic Amplification, since 1979, the Arctic has warmed about four times faster than the rest of the Earth. © Vince-Gx/Unsplash

The warm Arctic cold continent (WACC) pattern 

Winter times in recent years in the Northern Hemisphere have exhibited the warm Arctic cold continent (WACC) pattern, where reduced sea ice and higher ocean and surface air temperatures in the Arctic have coincided with extreme cold weather events across Asia, Europe, and North America.

The future of the Arctic-midlatitude teleconnection’s impact on the midlatitude winter anomalies 

For the 2023 study titled “Arctic-associated increased fluctuations of midlatitude winter temperature in the 1.5° and 2.0° warmer world” published in the journal npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, the team led by Professor Jin-Ho Yoon from the GIST used historical climate data from the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF).

Through an analysis of the data, the researchers saw that in the last 40 years, warmer Arctic Sea temperatures have persistently coincided with lower mid-latitude temperatures in winter, in line with the warm Arctic cold continent (WACC) pattern. However, winters such as the 2017/18 one were characterized by a warm Arctic and warm continent pattern, which indicates that this pattern is subject to interannual variability.

Arctic Sea ice thinning in just three years. Over the past two decades, the Arctic has lost about one-third of its winter sea ice volume, largely due to a decline in sea ice that persists over several years, called multiyear ice, according to a new study. The study also found sea ice is likely thinner than previous estimates. (Photo by Kerem YUCEL / AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)

The researchers from GIST, Utah State University, Seoul National University, Chonnam National University, Pukyung National University, and the KIST also analyzed how WACC will change under different warming scenarios through the “Half degree additional warming, prognosis and projected impacts” (HAPPI) model projection dataset. They found the WACC pattern would persist as global temperatures rise with a mildly diminished cold extreme and that Arctic-midlatitude teleconnection could become more uncertain in a warmer world, as under both the 1.5- and 2.0-degree warming scenarios, the temperature regression coefficient range for East Asia would increase.

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