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Global Warming and Cold Outbreak Linked, Say Climate Experts

By Alexandra Ward   |   Wednesday, 08 Jan 2014 07:18 AM

The Arctic cold outbreak that's sweeping the country from Minnesota to Florida may actually be an example of global warming in action, climate experts say, though it sure doesn’t feel like it.

According to meteorologists, global warming often leads to the breakdown of the mass of sea ice in the Arctic, spawning bizarre weather changes in other parts of the world, like sub-zero temperatures for example.

"Arctic warming is altering the heat balance between the North Pole and the equator, which is what drives the strong current of upper level winds in the northern hemisphere commonly known as the jet stream," The Guardian's Climate Central Environment Network reported. "Some studies show that if that balance is altered then some types of extreme weather events become more likely to occur."

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Basically, when the Arctic experiences a warm-air high pressure system, it blocks the flow of other weather systems and forces the frigid jet streams elsewhere, like into Canada and then back down across the Midwest and East Coast of the U.S.

"I do think that what has happened in North America, including the U.S. this winter, so far fits under the paradigm of 'warm Arctic cold continents,'" Judah Cohen, a climate forecaster at Atmospheric and Environmental Research in Massachusetts, told Climate Central in an email.

But how exactly does the melting sea ice in the Arctic affect the weather in other parts of the world?

"As sea ice retreats, sunshine that would have been reflected back to space by the bright ice is instead absorbed by the ocean, which heats up, melting even more ice," Dr. Jennifer Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University's Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, explained in a March 2012 article in Yale360, as per Weather.com.

"Extra heat entering the vast expanses of open water that were once covered in ice is released back to the atmosphere in the fall," she continued. "All that extra heat being deposited into the atmosphere cannot help but affect the weather, both locally and on a large scale."

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