Sea ice loss said driving European chill

Feb. 6, 2012 at 7:40 PM
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LONDON, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Meteorologists say ice-free seas in the arctic caused by global warming could explain a chill wind covering much of Europe that has killed more than 300 people.

Experts said they believe complex wind patterns are being affected as melting arctic sea ice has exposes huge areas of normally frozen ocean to the atmosphere above, bringing bitterly cold weather to Britain and the rest of Europe, The Independent reported Monday.

The loss of arctic sea ice could be influencing high-pressure weather systems over northern Russia that bring very cold winds from the arctic and Siberia to Western Europe and the British Isles, scientists said.

"The current weather pattern fits earlier predictions of computer models for how the atmosphere responds to the loss of sea ice due to global warming," Professor Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany said. "The ice-free areas of the ocean act like a heater as the water is warmer than the arctic air above it. This favors the formation of a high-pressure system near the Barents Sea, which steers cold air into Europe."

Earlier research by Potsdam scientist Vladimir Petoukhov predicted colder winters in Western Europe as a result of melting sea ice.

"Whoever thinks that the shrinking of some far-away sea ice won't bother him could be wrong. There are complex interconnections in the climate system, and in the Barents-Kara Sea we might have discovered a powerful feedback mechanism," Petoukhov said.

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