Arctic Ice Raises New Local, Global Concerns

Decreases in Arctic ice have scientists wondering if this melting could affect local weather patterns. Shrinking to the size of Texas in 2012, arctic ice is at a record low and may explain recent, more intense weather in Wisconsin

According to Steve Vavrus, a climate expert and senior scientist in the Nelson Institute Center for Climate Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, warming in the Arctic may be affecting the national jet stream, which moves weather fronts westward to eastward. Warming slows down the jet stream, which causes atmospheric waves to stretch out. These longer waves are resulting in prolonged, extreme weather events.

“The combination of those two, the waviness promoting more extreme weather and the greater persistence making those weather events last longer, that combination will become noticeable as heat waves, droughts, floods and cold snaps,” Vavrus said.

The term “global climate change” may be a better way of describing these circumstances than “global warming.” While the Arctic is losing ice due to warming, its polar opposite, the Antarctic, gained a record high of ice. For every square mile of ice Antarctica gains, the Arctic loses nearly six square miles. This relation is caused by a huge ozone hole above the Antarctic. No matter their label, however, these changes are dangerous to the health of the planet.

Many scientists believe that the causes of these climate changes are man-made. Specifically, the release of carbon dioxide into the air from the burning of fossil fuels, industrialization, and agriculture are warming the earth and changing weather patterns.

Though it is impossible to say with certainty, it certainly appears likely that Wisconsin’s weather changes are due to the melting Arctic ice. “But the warming climate…changing climate is the backdrop to all of our weather events, “ Vavrus said. “And the more climate change takes hold, the stronger that contribution will be.”

[Sources: The Daily Cardinal; Associated Press; The Guardian]