By Zak Stone
If you live in certain parts of Europe or North America, you may have noticed that this spring has been a chilly one, full of late snowstorms and freezes. While it's possible to write this off as just an annual fluctuation in the weather, researchers have another explanation: climate change.
The year 2012 marked a record for loss of Arctic sea ice, according to The Ecologist website:
[T]he Arctic ice loss adds heat to the ocean and atmosphere which shifts the position of the jet stream--the high-altitude river of air that steers storm systems and governs most weather in the Northern Hemisphere.
Shifts in the jet stream can have massive effects on the weather patterns of the Northern hemisphere, Jennifer Francis, of the Rutgers Institute of Coastal and Marine Science, told the Ecologist:
"It allows the cold air from the Arctic to plunge much further south." [...]
The heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures which have marked March 2013 across the Northern Hemisphere are in stark contrast to March 2012, when many countries experienced their warmest-ever springs. The hypothesis that wind patterns are being changed because melting Arctic sea ice has exposed huge swaths of normally frozen ocean to the atmosphere would explain both the extremes of heat and cold, say the scientists.
And of course, the end result of a shifting jet stream and changing ocean temperatures is something scientists have been saying on repeat for a while now: more extreme weather events.
"We are going to have more floods, we are going to have more sea surges, and we are going to have more storms," says Sir John Beddington, a scientific advisor to the U.K. government. "These are the sort of changes that are going to affect us in quite a short timescale."
Copyright 2013 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.