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'Arctic Oscillation' Spilling Cold into North America and Europe

But residents of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic are asking what happened to the sea ice cover this year, since little has formed there yet

by Andrew Freedman, Climate Central

Jan 12, 2011

According to Serreze, a negative Arctic Oscillation can help in two different ways. First, prevailing winds when the Arctic Oscillation is negative tend to keep older, thicker sea ice cover — which is more resistant to melting — in the Arctic instead of being transported through Fram Strait and into the North Atlantic. "The real important thing is it tends to basically sequester old ice in the Arctic Ocean,” he says.

Second, it tends to cause ice to diverge over the central Arctic Ocean, which "would leave areas [of open water] where new ice could grow.”

The problem, he says, is the overall warming of the ocean and atmosphere in the Arctic may be changing some of the relationships between sea ice and seasonal weather patterns. "What we’re starting to see is indications that those old rules don’t really apply that well anymore.” 

It's not clear how the record low sea ice extent in December may affect the 2011 melt season, Serreze says. Last year, sea ice declined to the third-lowest in the satellite record despite an extremely negative Arctic Oscillation, and the famed Northwest Passage was ice-free for a brief period. 

“It’s very likely that we’ll end the winter season in bad shape," Serreze says.


(Photo: Jejecam)

Republished with permission.

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