AER Study Reveals Arctic Influence on Midlatitude Weather Greater Than Previously Thought

Lexington, Mass., May 9, 2016 — A new study from Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) published in Geophysical Research Letters (a journal of the American Geophysical Union) shows that the influence of Arctic change on recent trends in midlatitude winter (December–February) weather has likely been greater than the influence of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). This research holds promise for improving seasonal forecasting. AER is a Verisk Analytics (Nasdaq:VRSK) business.

Over the past three decades, the Arctic has experienced the greatest climate changes of anywhere on Earth, including rapidly rising temperatures, melting sea ice, and increasing autumn snow cover. The extent to which these rapid changes in the Arctic are influencing midlatitude weather has become a hotly debated topic in the climate community.

The new analysis, funded by the National Science Foundation under grants PLR-1504361 and AGS-1303647, compares recently observed trends in weather patterns to atmospheric variability associated with both Arctic change and ENSO. The study demonstrates that recently observed weather pattern trends are strikingly similar to the variability associated with Arctic change rather than the variability associated with ENSO. 

This work also demonstrates that temperature variability has become more extreme in Northern Hemisphere population centers over the past three decades, a time period that has seen the Arctic warm faster than any other region on Earth. 

While some scientists have speculated that this faster warming, or “Arctic amplification,” may lead to more muted temperature swings (arguing that a warming Arctic will temper cold-air outbreaks), the opposite has occurred, and temperature swings have become more amplified as the Arctic has warmed. These amplified temperature swings are popularly referred to as “weather whiplash.”

“We’ve found the likely explanation to cold winters in a warming world, and it’s due to Arctic change,” said Dr. Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at AER and lead author of the study. “The publication of the paper is especially timely. We just finished a winter that was characterized by both a record-breaking ENSO and a record-breaking polar vortex—and the polar vortex dominated.”

The study can be viewed here.


About Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER)
Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) provides science-based solutions to global environmental challenges. AER’s internationally renowned scientists and software engineers collaborate to transform state-of-the-art predictive science and analytical tools into practical systems that address both civilian government and defense needs for geophysical understanding, computer simulation, and forecasting. AER customers include government agencies and national laboratories, aerospace and defense contractors, and academia. Areas of expertise comprise atmospheric and environmental science, remote sensing, meteorology, oceanography, space science, climate change, and software engineering. A Verisk Analytics (Nasdaq:VRSK) business, AER was established in 1977 and is headquartered in Lexington, Mass. Visit


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