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Amplified Arctic warming and mid‐latitude weather: new perspectives on emerging connections

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The Arctic is warming and melting at alarming rates. Within the lifetime of a Millennial, the volume of ice floating on the Arctic Ocean has declined by at least half. The pace of Arctic warming is two‐to‐three times that of the globe; this disparity reached a new record high during 2016. While the Arctic spans only a small fraction of the Earth, it plays a disproportionate and multifaceted role in the climate system. In this article, we offer new perspectives on ways in which the Arctic's rapid warming may influence weather patterns in heavily populated regions (the mid‐latitudes) of the Northern Hemisphere. Research on this topic has evolved almost as rapidly as the snow and ice have diminished, and while much has been learned, many questions remain. The atmosphere is complex, highly variable, and undergoing a multitude of simultaneous changes, many of which have become apparent only recently. These realities present challenges to robust signal detection and to clear attribution of cause‐and‐effect. In addition to updating the state of this science, we propose an explanation for the varying and intermittent response of mid‐latitude circulation to the rapidly warming Arctic.

Near‐surface air temperature departures from normal (relative to 1981–2010) during January–December in the mid‐latitude zone (red dashed; 40°–60°N) and the Arctic (blue; 70°–90°N) from 1948 to 2016. Data obtained from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction/National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP/NCAR) Reanalysis at http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/.
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(a) Observed trends in the hemispheric zonal‐mean zonal wind (black contours; m s−1) and zonal‐mean continental air temperature (shading; °C) from the surface (1000 hPa) upward through the stratosphere (~300–10 hPa) during winter (DJF) from 1988/1989 to 2014/2015. (b) Portion of observed trends explained by Arctic factors (November sea‐ice loss in the Barents/Kara seas and October snow advance in Eurasia) using linear regression. (c) Same as (b), but the portion of observed trends explained by El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Mid‐latitude variability associated with Arctic boundary forcings is statistically significant, while mid‐latitude variability associated with ENSO is not (for additional detail, see Ref ).
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Near‐surface air temperature anomalies for JFM during winters of 2014 and 2015. Data obtained from the NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis at http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/.
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Schematic illustrating ‘It Takes Two to Tango’ concept. Shading depicts surface temperature anomalies during November 2013 (relative to 1979–1996). (a) A possible jet stream configuration (gray curve) with ridges over the western Pacific and over the central United States, along with a trough in the eastern Pacific. (b) Another possible jet stream configuration with a ridge in the eastern Pacific, where anomalous heating owing to above‐normal Chukchi sea surface temperatures augments the intensity of the ridge (black dashed line). Temperature data are from the European Centre for Medium‐Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Reanalysis‐Interim, plotted using the Koninklijk Nederlands Meteorologisch Instituut (KNMI) Climate Explorer (http://climexp.knmi.nl/).
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Composited 500 hPa heights (m) during JFM for (left) positive‐minus‐negative phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) (1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 2003, 2015 minus 1989 1991, 2000, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012), (middle) anomalously warm surface temperatures in the Chukchi Sea region during a positive PDO (1994, 1996, 2003, 2010, 2014), and (right) same as middle but for anomalously cold Chukchi temperatures (1987, 1988, 1998, 2000). Chukchi Sea region defined as in Ref . Data obtained from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction/National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP/NCAR) Reanalysis at http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/.
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Red: winter (JFM) near‐surface air temperature anomalies (relative to 1980–2010) in the Arctic (70°–90°N) from 2010 to 2016. Blue: same but for atmospheric water vapor. Data obtained from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction/National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCEP/NCAR) Reanalysis at http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/.
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