19 January 2011 Bundle Up! The Chillier Side of Climate Change Posted by: Noah Matson | 3 comments | Share: It seems like every winter we see the same thing – political cartoons with characters shivering in the cold, praying for global warming, a rise in the taunts from climate skeptics that global warming is a hoax. This year is no different, especially with Europe’s Christmas-time Arctic blast that gave England its coldest December in over 100 years. The reality is, however, that global warming can in fact make our winters colder. That Arctic chill you complain about as you raise your scarf higher around your neck – it may indeed be a blast of cold air from the high Arctic. Arctic sea ice has been shrinking, putting polar bears, walruses and other Arctic species in danger. The National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado recently reported that the sea ice extent for December was the lowest ever recorded since satellite measurements began. “Thus we have a potential climate change paradox. Rather than a general warming everywhere, the loss of sea ice and a warmer Arctic can increase the impact of the Arctic on lower latitudes, bringing colder weather to southern locations.” So what does the loss of sea ice and the plight of polar bears have to do with cold winters in the Lower 48 and Europe? A lot, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Arctic Report Card for 2010. The NOAA report shows that as sea ice takes longer to form in the fall due to warming, the Arctic atmosphere is exposed to the warming effects of open water. At the same time, more heat from the sun is absorbed by the Arctic Ocean instead of being reflected off the sea ice and back into space. This relative warming in the Arctic (it’s still cold up there!) creates a high pressure system that pushes cold Arctic air down to more southerly latitudes. NOAA points out, “Thus we have a potential climate change paradox. Rather than a general warming everywhere, the loss of sea ice and a warmer Arctic can increase the impact of the Arctic on lower latitudes, bringing colder weather to southern locations.” Climate modeler Vladamir Petroukhov of the Potsdam Climate Institute agrees. He led a study that showed the loss of sea ice north of Scandanavia was correlated with colder winter weather in Europe. As pointed out by Petoukhov, “Whoever thinks that the shrinking of some far away sea-ice won’t bother him could be wrong.” Taking the Plunge! Noah Matson is making like a polar bear diving into Washington DC’s chilly Potomac River to raise awareness about climate change’s harmful impacts on Arctic animals like polar bears. Come see Noah and others this Saturday, January 22, at the National Harbor! Click here to learn more. 3 Responses to “Bundle Up! The Chillier Side of Climate Change” klem January 19th, 2011 “Arctic sea ice has been shrinking” You can say that again. About 20,000 years ago it reached all the way down to the lower 48 states as well as covering the UK. Since then it was been shrinking at varying rates all the way back to where it is today; thats around 20 degrees of latitude or roughly 1800 miles to the north. Your point being? Post Your Comment Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (required) (will not be published) You May also be interested in The Votes Are In… You voted, and we listened – now the winners of Defenders’ 2014 Photo Contest are here! See if your favorite won, and take a look at some of the amazing runner-ups. We’ve Got to Protect What’s Left of the Sagebrush Sea New research shows that after a fire, the Sagebrush Sea (home to the imperiled greater sage-grouse) could take up to 20 years to fully recover. With other factors already threatening so much of this habitat, what does that mean for the species that call it home? California prepares to welcome wolves home, but delays on providing state protections Now, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to remove Endangered Species Act protection for wolves throughout most of the rest of the country, gray wolves are once again at risk. Delisting would short-circuit wolf recovery in the Pacific West and would effectively mean giving up on one of our country’s most important and iconic species. Fortunately, California has an opportunity to play a meaningful role in helping the gray wolf continue to recover in the coming months and years.