Persistent weather conditions, including dry and wet spells, that have increased in the United States may be a result of rapid Arctic warming, according to a new study.
The conditions can lead to weather extremes such as drought, heat waves, prolonged cold, and storms that can cost millions of dollars in damage and disrupt societies and ecosystems, researchers say.
Scientists examined daily precipitation data at 17 stations across the US, along with large upper-level circulation patterns over the eastern Pacific Ocean and North America.
Overall, dry and wet spells lasting four or more days were more frequent in recent decades, according to the study, which appears in Geophysical Research Letters. The frequency of persistent large-scale circulation patterns over North America also increased when the Arctic was abnormally warm.
“When these conditions last a long time, they can become extreme events, as we’ve seen so often in recent years…”
In recent decades, the Arctic has been warming at least twice as fast as the global average temperature, the study notes. The persistence of warm Arctic patterns has also increased, suggesting that long-duration weather conditions will occur more often as rapid Arctic warming continues, says lead author Jennifer Francis, a research professor in the marine and coastal sciences department at Rutgers University.
“While we cannot say for sure that Arctic warming is the cause, we found that large-scale patterns with Arctic warming are becoming more frequent, and the frequency of long-duration weather conditions increases most for those patterns,” says Francis, who works in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
The results suggest that as the Arctic continues to warm and melt, it’s likely that long-duration events will continue to occur more often, meaning that weather patterns—heat waves, droughts, cold spells, and stormy conditions—will likely become more persistent, she says.
Land surface temperatures from December 26, 2017 to January 2, 2018, compared with the 2001 to 2010 average for the same eight-day period. The persistent warm West and cold East pattern that was so prevalent last winter caused a western drought that led to summer fires, a prolonged cold spell in much of the East and, a parade of nor’easters along the East Coast. (Credit: NASA Earth Observatory)
“When these conditions last a long time, they can become extreme events, as we’ve seen so often in recent years,” she says. “Knowing which types of events will occur more often in which regions and under what background conditions—such as certain ocean temperature patterns—will help decision-makers plan for the future in terms of infrastructure improvements, agricultural practices, emergency preparedness, and managed retreat from hazardous areas.”
Future research will expand the analysis to other regions of the Northern Hemisphere, develop new metrics to find causal connections, and analyze projections to assess future risks from extreme weather events linked to persistent patterns, she says.
Additional coauthors are from Rutgers and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The National Science Foundation funded the study.
Source: Rutgers University
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In The Future History of the Arctic, geopolitics expert Charles Emmerson weaves together the history of the region with reportage and reflection, revealing a vast and complex area of the globe, loaded with opportunity and rich in challenges. He defines the forces which have shaped the Arctic's history and introduces the players in politics, business, science and society who are struggling to mold its future.
The Arctic is coming of age. This engrossing book tells the story of how that is happening and how it might happen—through the stories of those who live there, those who study it, and those who will determine its destiny.
Arctic Security: An Adaptive Approach for a Changing Climate * The Reemergence of the Arctic as a Strategic Location * Taking Command in the Arctic: The Need for a Command Organization in the Arctic Theater * U.S. Arctic Security * Managing the Arctic Thaw: A Joint Interagency Approach to a Potential Hot Spot * The Consequential Challenges of Climate Change * Climate Change Implications to the Global Security Environment, U.S. Interests, and Future Naval Operations * U.S. National Arctic Strategy: Preparing Defensive Lines of Effort for the Arctic
The Arctic is widely regarded as one of the last remaining natural sanctuaries on Earth. Warmer temperatures in the region have opened the eyes of sea-faring nations and motivated the ring of 'Arctic Nations' to officially stake their claims to natural resources, indicating the beginnings of future strife over sovereignty disputes. On the other hand, the outcry of environmental concern for the region has increasingly manifested itself in political discussion, elevating national and regional security concerns to a global level. The research for this paper has shed light on the paths already undertaken toward the security future of the Arctic, and has highlighted the need to focus on future approaches that consider the environmental aspects of inter-connectedness. Unilaterally defending 'national security' interests may lead to further degradation of the natural and political climate in the region with catastrophic consequences. This observation has been the driving force of this paper.
Changes in the Arctic give rise to emerging security challenges at the strategic and operational levels. These challenges include territorial disputes, the potential of new maritime shipping routes, and increased access to highly valuable natural resources. In response to these challenges, international state and commercial interests are moving forward to protect claims and prepare for emerging opportunities in the Arctic. At present, no single Combatant Commander has the lead for meeting the challenges of the Arctic. Unless the United States takes unified action, it may lose diplomatic, informational, military and economic advantages associated with the Arctic. In order to meet the emerging challenges of the Arctic, the U.S. Northern Command must develop and implement a command organization to effectively project U.S. presence, protect national security interests, and coordinate military, interagency, and international efforts in the Arctic theater. This paper analyzes current U.S. policies and strategies that apply to the Arctic and current command organizations that may serve as a model for the Arctic theater. The paper finishes with conclusions concerning the challenges in the Arctic, implications for the Combatant Commander, and recommendations for an effective command organization.
The time to start shaping the U.S. Arctic security interests is now. The Arctic offers both commercial opportunity and security if it is successfully implemented into U.S. national policy objectives and strategy. With 90 billion barrels of oil throughout 400 oil fields, the region is destined to be bustling with exploration in the next ten years. Additionally, global warming trends and shrinking Arctic ice will open waterways and shorten commerce routes between the east and west to create a continuous flow of goods and people through the far north. The time to expand and create new infrastructure consistent with objectives is now. The hazards of waiting too long to fully engage could mean the U.S. loses the opportunity to shape the security, commerce, and environment for the future. It could also mean a much greater investment to achieve its objectives later.
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A “courageous and revelatory memoir” (Naomi Klein) chronicling the life of the leading Indigenous climate change, cultural, and human rights advocate
For the first ten years of her life, Sheila Watt-Cloutier traveled only by dog team. Today there are more snow machines than dogs in her native Nunavik, a region that is part of the homeland of the Inuit in Canada. In Inuktitut, the language of Inuit, the elders say that the weather is Uggianaqtuq—behaving in strange and unexpected ways. The Right to Be Cold is Watt-Cloutier’s memoir of growing up in the Arctic reaches of Quebec during these unsettling times. It is the story of an Inuk woman finding her place in the world, only to find her native land giving way to the inexorable warming of the planet. She decides to take a stand against its destruction.
The Right to Be Cold is the human story of life on the front lines of climate change, told by a woman who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most influential Indigenous environmental, cultural, and human rights advocates in the world. Raised by a single mother and grandmother in the small community of Kuujjuaq, Quebec, Watt-Cloutier describes life in the traditional ice-based hunting culture of an Inuit community and reveals how Indigenous life, human rights, and the threat of climate change are inextricably linked. Colonialism intervened in this world and in her life in often violent ways, and she traces her path from Nunavik to Nova Scotia (where she was sent at the age of ten to live with a family that was not her own); to a residential school in Churchill, Manitoba; and back to her hometown to work as an interpreter and student counselor.
The Right to Be Cold is at once the intimate coming-of-age story of a remarkable woman, a deeply informed look at the life and culture of an Indigenous community reeling from a colonial history and now threatened by climate change, and a stirring account of an activist’s powerful efforts to safeguard Inuit culture, the Arctic, and the planet.