A homeless man asks for money outside a donut shop during white-out, blizzard-like conditions in a winter nor’easter snow storm in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Research purports to bolster theories that man-made warming is leading to colder U.S. and European winters, but buried in the paper is an admission undercutting its findings.
The study, published in a “Nature Communications” January 2018 issue, claimed historical data showed an East Coast cold snap is two to four times more likely when the Arctic is abnormally warmer than when the pole is colder. It’s not a widely accepted theory among climate scientists, but the study’s made the rounds in the media, touted as more evidence man-made warming is making U.S. winters colder.
The study “basically” confirmed “the story I’ve been telling for a couple of years now,” the study’s co-author, Rutgers University scientist Jennifer Francis, said. “This is no coincidence” and that “it’s becoming very difficult to believe they are unrelated,” Francis, who’s regularly cited in the media during intense cold snaps, added.
That theory resurfaced this winter during a prolonged cold snap in the eastern U.S., which lasted from around Christmas 2017 to mid-January. Cold and snow pummeled the northeast, and former Vice President Al Gore claimed it was the product of man-made warming. Francis’s new study confirms that theory, she said.
Buried in the study, however, is a section on limitations undercutting the mainline findings. JunkScience.com publisher Steve Milloy pointed out the admissions on Twitter.
Boom… Nature study admissions undercut almost all climate studies:
— Steve Milloy (@JunkScience) March 14, 2018
“The most obvious is common to all observational analysis, i.e., correlation does not mean causation,” the authors wrote in their study, adding “even though elevated heights and warmer temperatures in the Arctic are positively correlated with more frequent severe winter weather in the mid-latitudes, we cannot conclude that the warmer Arctic is responsible.”
More importantly, the authors “have not offered mechanistic explanations for these relationships” but instead try and argue “our findings are consistent with previous studies linking a warming Arctic with extreme winter weather in NH mid-latitudes,” they admit.
The authors basically admit they are not testing any hypothesis; they are just running the numbers and looking for some sort of correlation between Arctic warmth and cold snaps in the northeastern U.S. and Europe.
Francis has been arguing for years that melting sea ice and a warming Arctic is weakening the jet stream and leading to more frequent and persistent cold snaps in the U.S. and Europe. But as she admitted in the study, scientists have no idea how this could be happening.
“Five of the past six winters have brought persistent cold to the eastern US and warm, dry conditions to the West, while the Arctic has been off-the-charts warm,” Francis said.
“Exactly how much the Arctic contributed to the severity or persistence of the pattern is still hard to pin down, but it’s becoming very difficult to believe they are unrelated,” she added.
Her study comes as the third nor’easter this winter bears down on the northeastern U.S. The storm follows the “Beast from the East” storm that brought temperatures to record lows across much of Europe while the Arctic went through record warmth.
Many scientists don’t think there’s enough evidence to say for sure what’s driven recent cold snaps. Studies have also found cold snaps have become less common in the last 50 years.
“This study highlights the difficulty in disentangling the cause-and-effect between Arctic warming and middle latitude extreme events,” Weather.us meteorologist and Cato Institute scholar Ryan Maue told CNN.
“While no firm scientific consensus exists in the climate community on these Arctic interactions, this research communication will help direct future research and spur timely debate on a high impact climate change problem,” Maue added.
An “Exceptionally large amount of winter snow in Northern Hemisphere this year”
From the Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past department and the Finnish Meteorological Institute comes this press release today.
Exceptionally large amount of winter snow in Northern Hemisphere this year
The new Arctic Now product developed by the Finnish Meteorological Institute shows with one picture the extent of the area in the Northern Hemisphere currently covered by ice and snow. This kind of information, which shows the accurate state of the Arctic, becomes increasingly important due to climate change. The Arctic region will be discussed at the Arctic Meteorological Week which begins in Levi next week.
In the Northern Hemisphere the maximum seasonal snow cover occurs in March. “This year has been a year with an exceptionally large amount of snow, when examining the entire Northern Hemisphere. The variation from one year to another has been somewhat great, and especially in the most recent years the differences between winters have been very great”, says Kari Luojus, Senior Research Scientist at the Finnish Meteorological Institute.
The information has been gleaned from the Arctic Now service of the Finnish Meteorological Institute, which is unique even on a global scale. The greatest difference compared with other comparable services is that traditionally they only tell about the extent of the ice or snow situation.
“Here at the Finnish Meteorological Institute we have managed to combine data to form a single image. In this way we can get a better situational picture of the cryosphere – that is, the cold areas of the Northern Hemisphere”, Research Professor Jouni Pulliainen observes.
In addition to the coverage, the picture includes the water value of the snow, which determines the water contained in the snow. This is important information for drafting hydrological forecasts on the flood situation and in monitoring the state of climate and environment in general.
Total amount of snow declines and snow starts to melt earlier
Information on the amount of snow is also sent to the Global Cryosphere Watch service of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMP) where the information is combined with trends and statistics of past years. Lengthy series of observation times show that the total amount of snow in the Northern Hemisphere has declined in the spring period and that the melting of the snow has started earlier in the same period. Examination over a longer period (1980-2017) shows that the total amount of snow in all winter periods has decreased on average.
Also, the ice cover on the Arctic Ocean has grown thinner and the amount and expanse of perennial ice has decreased. Before 2000 the smallest expanse of sea ice varied between 6.2 and 7.9 million square kilometres. In the past ten years the expanse of ice has varied from 5.4 to 3.6 million square kilometres. Extreme weather phenomena – winters in which snowfall is sometimes quite heavy, and others with little snow, will increase in the future.
When it was freezing cold in Finland, it was exceptionally warm at the North Pole
The Arctic area is warming at twice the speed as the rest of the world, and the impact of climate change can already be seen at the moment in the Arctic regions. On the other hand, the changes are affecting the rest of the earth.
“What happens in the Arctic regions does not stay in the Arctic regions. It also affects a wider area. The exceptional strengthening of a high-pressure area in Siberia, which brought freezing temperatures to Finland in late February and early March, may be partly the result of atmospheric warming over the Arctic Ocean. When it is exceptionally cold somewhere in the world, it is often exceptionally warm somewhere else. This is what happened in the end of February-early March when temperatures in the North Pole were around zero degrees Celsius and it was exceptionally cold in Europe”, explains Ari Laaksonen, Scientific Director at the Finnish Meteorological Institute.
The weather fluctuates from one year to another and individual cold snaps in the Arctic area are not, as such, proof of the progression of climate change. “However, they are a reminder of how climate uncertainty has increased and that we’ll have to get use to variations in the weather as the climate change proceeds”, Laaksonen observes.
Looking at US data from NOAA’s MASIE product says the same thing:
Ditto for Rutgers Snow Lab data:
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