What Does More Arctic Sea Ice Means For Us?
September 12, 2013

What Does More Arctic Sea Ice Means For Us?

First, let’s look at the Arctic in regards to atmospheric conditions. The region is dominated mostly by a permanent high pressure center. This means that the air is generally sinking near the poles, or when we feel it on the earth’s surface, it’s higher pressure. What happens is high pressure brings colder air from the upper atmosphere and sinks it to the ground. Now, when this air hits the ground, it spreads out from the top of the North Pole equally across and southward towards the major continents of the Northern Hemisphere. This allows the cold air to push southward, in the form of high pressure centers, such as the Canadian High which impacts the United States, and the Siberian High pressure which impacts Asia. These high pressure centers are bubbles of air that push and migrate southward and bring cold weather with them when they come.

Now, when they move southward, these high pressures bring the colder air southward with them. This colder air then brings what we refer to as cold air outbreaks across the Northern Hemisphere. So, why is the Arctic Sea Ice so important to what kind of winters we may have? One indicator is when there is more ice present in the polar region, which means that cold high pressure spends more time over frozen land, allowing it to stay cold. However, when we melt the Arctic sea ice, the exact opposite occurs. The open waters of the Arctic warm the air just enough to weaken the high pressure areas and they arrive into the United States not as harsh as they began.

As we head into this winter with the Arctic already frozen over far more than last year, this could just be the sign of some very cold winters about to take shape for the Northern Hemisphere.  These cold high pressure centers will be able to stay colder longer. Just look back at July 2013 and remember all the cold air that hit the Northern US with low temps in the 40’s. Even this month more of that has been recorded as frost and freezing conditions are already entering the United States ahead of schedule. So now just imagine what this could do for the rest of the United States. Once the snow cover starts to blanket the northern United States, this will allow the high pressure centers to stay colder even further south; we could be looking at very cold weather over the southern United States, southern Europe and further into China and Japan, as well.

When there is more sea ice present over the poles, this acts as fuel for the colder winters that we are about to experience over the next five to 15 years; however, other factors will play into this as well such as El-Nino and La-Nina.

Having all the extra ice in the polar region now we may just see an early start to winter and a longer winter this year. If you remember last year, we had ice over the Northern Plains until the middle of May. This year we may see the same thing, but it could last until June, as the colder patterns will be stronger and longer.

Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

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