Declining Arctic sea-ice has made severe winters
across central Asia twice as likely, new research shows. The paper
is the latest in a series linking very cold winters in
the northern hemisphere to rapidly increasing temperatures in the
But the long-term picture suggests these cold winters might only
be a temporary feature before further warming takes hold.
Temperatures in the Arctic are increasing
twice as fast as the global average. This is known
Arctic amplification. As Arctic
sea-ice shrinks, energy from the sun that would have been reflected
away by sea-ice is instead absorbed by the ocean.
Arctic amplification has been
linked with very cold winters in mid-latitude
regions of the northern hemisphere. The UK, the US and Canada have
all experienced extreme winters in recent years. Just last year,
for example, the UK had its
second-coldest March since records began,
prompting the Met Office to call a
rapid response meeting of experts to get to
grips with whether melting Arctic sea-ice could be affecting
The new study, published in
Nature Geoscience, suggests the likelihood of severe winters in
central Asia has doubled over the past decade. This vast region
includes southern Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and northern China.
And it's the Arctic that's driving the changes once again, the
The study finds that almost all of the very cold
winters in central Asia during the past decade have coincided with
particularly warm conditions in the Arctic.
The paper points to sea ice loss in the Barents
Sea and the Kara Sea as the cause. These sit to the
north of Scandinavia and Russia and to the south of the Arctic
Ocean, as shown in the map below.