Don't sell that old snowblower just yet.
The last three or four years have seen freakishly warm spells in the dark of the Arctic winter. Temperatures 35 degrees Celsius have been recorded in the high north, well above the freezing point.
Meanwhile Europe and much of North America have been living with freakishly cold conditions.
You might have wondered if one had something to do with the other? Well we now know.
A sharp increase in temperatures across the Arctic since the early 1990s has coincided with an uptick in abnormally cold snaps in winter, particularly in the eastern US, according to new research that analyzed temperature data from 1950 onwards.
Extreme cold winter weather is up to four times more likely when temperatures in the Arctic are unusually high, the study found. Researchers compared daily temperatures from across the Arctic region with something called the accumulated winter season severity index, which grades winter weather based on temperature, snow fall and snow depth, across 12 US cities.
The Arctic has just experienced its toastiest winter on record, with parts of the region 20C (68F) warmer than the long-term average, a situation scientists have variously described as “crazy,” “weird,” and “simply shocking”. The far north latitudes are warming around twice as quickly as the global average, diminishing glaciers and sea ice and imperiling creatures such as polar bears.
Two large winter storms recently swept the US east coast in less than a week, unloading up to three inches of snow per hour in places, resulting in several deaths, thousands of cancelled flights, closed schools and snarled traffic.
The cold front even reached Florida, contributing to a recent surge in manatee deaths. So far this year, 166 of the marine mammals have been found dead off the state’s coast, with stress from the cold the leading cause of mortality. “Manatees may join polar bears as one of the first iconic victims of extinction in the wild from climate change,” said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
The US storms follow freezing winds from Siberia – dubbed the ‘beast from the east’ – that battered parts of Europe, with the British army deployed to help liberate hundreds of stranded drivers on UK motorways.
“This winter is a great example of what we can expect from climate change,” said Cohen. “In the US we had the ‘bomb cyclone’ in January, followed by July-like warm weather in February that I’d never seen before. And now we’ve had a parade of powerful winter storms and the beast from the east. It’s mind boggling.”