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Melting arctic ice puts Europe in Freezer

Shrinking ice cap means colder winters for Europe, and North America

ATLANTA, | February 29, 2012

Melting and shrinking of arctic sea ice means colder, snowier winters to Britain and other parts of Europe, along with North America and China, a study shows.

U.S. and Chinese researchers say the area of Arctic Ocean covered by ice in summer and autumn has been decreasing with global warming and is having an effect on the atmospheric jet stream. That phenomenon is producing cold, snowy weather.

Whether winters will get even colder with ongoing melting is unclear, the researchers write in Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences.

A team headed by Jiping Liu from Georgia Tech and the Institute of Atmospheric Physics in Beijing observed and conducted computer modeling of the meteorological processes involved.

"For the past four winters, for much of the northern United States, east Asia and Europe, we had this persistent above-normal snow cover," Liu told BBC News.

"We don't see a predictive relationship with any of the other factors that have been proposed, such as El Nino," he said, "but for sea ice, we do see a predictive relationship."

With less sea ice cover, the Arctic Ocean releases more heat into the atmosphere, reducing the strength of the northern jet stream, which usually brings milder weather to Europe from the west, researchers said. That creates a "blocking" condition that sends colder air over Britain, Europe and the other affected regions.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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