Europe's wintry weather
February 6th, 2012
03:02 PM ET

Shrinking polar ice caps may be to blame for frigid Europe

Europe's deadly cold snap may have a lot to do with shrinking amounts of ice in the Arctic, a recent study suggests.

Nearly 300 deaths have been reported across the continent, with snow accumulations not seen in five decades reported in some places. Warsaw, Poland, has seen 11 days of temperatures well below average, with a coldest reading of 35 below zero Fahrenheit.

As warmer air rises into the stratosphere over the Arctic, colder surface air moves south bringing storms to Europe.

Scientists at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Potsdam, Germany, say the frigid, snowy European winter has its origins in a warm Arctic summer.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that July 2011 was the fourth-warmest July on record. A warm summer in the Arctic cuts the amount of sea ice. NOAA reports that sea-ice levels last July were the lowest in three decades.

The effect is twofold, the Wegener scientists report.

First, less ice means less solar heat is reflected back into the atmosphere. Rather, it is absorbed into the darker ocean waters. Second, once that heat is in the ocean, the reduced ice cap allows the heat to more easily escape into the air just above the ocean's surface.

Because warmer air tends to rise, the moisture-laden air near the ocean's surface rises, creating instability in the atmosphere and changing air-pressure patterns, the scientists say.

One pattern, called the Arctic Oscillation, normally pushes warm Atlantic air over Europe and keeps Arctic air over the poles.

But in mid-January this year, the Arctic Oscillation abruptly changed, allowing the jet stream to plunge into Siberia and push cold and snowy weather over much of Europe.

Similar situations have emerged the past two years.

Check out some more reports on what this winter's been like, both in the U.S. and around the world:

Frigid weather helps cost Romania's prime minister his job

What's behind America's warm winter?

soundoff (1,080 Responses)
  1. larry5

    If the weather is warm enough to melt the ice cap are they telling us that this warm weather is causing the ice and snow in Europe. Where I live it takes cold weather to have ice and snow. Does their explination have to do with who's paying for the information?

    February 6, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      Just because it's warmer in one spot doesn't mean it's warmer everywhere...did you even read the article?

      February 6, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • hmm

      no it doesn't

      February 6, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • rad666

      This freezing weather will hurt their economy. Start shorting stocks of European companies.

      February 6, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • andyoo

      ok, so this bull science is that the artic is melting, so less ice, less reflection, more heat in water, which then creates more cold wet wind around artic, so end up snowing everywhere around artic, so end up creating a white europe, which in turns refects more heat from Europe out of the earth, hence now a bigger area is freezing...
      so does that in turn cools down the earth? end up cooling down the artics?
      so where is the global warming?.
      I don't know...it's like a circle of explaination ...may be the earth will balance itselve out anyway.

      February 7, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  2. L.A. Law

    They blame everything on "Global Warming" even extreme cold???? lol yeah :-) ...

    February 6, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      A modest suggestion: consider making at least a minimal effort to TRY to understand the science, before commenting on it. Taking a college-level course in climatology might help.

      February 6, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • holland

      It's actually called "Global Climate Change". "Global Warming" is a political term used to confuse people who don't understand the science behind this phenomenon.

      February 6, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drumcode

      I see that we're dealing with a real genius here. lol

      February 6, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fire0bama

      The liberals have already changed their cathy phrase "global warmning" to "climate change". Now they can blame climate change on climate change.

      February 6, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOE

      Fire0bama– Very well said.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      FireObama: Scientists shifted from "global warming" to "climate change" because they realized that "global warming" confused simpletons such as you and "LA Law." From the moment that global warming was first proposed, scientists have argued that it will cause an increase in average temperature, but will also cause changes in weather patterns that will create localized cooling trends. They have even published maps predicting which parts of the world will see temperature increases versus decreases.

      This is the great thing about scientists, and what separates many of the people who argue against global warming from true scientists. The scientists studying global warming have clearly laid out their theories and predictions, opening themselves for criticism or confirmation. It is easy to mock something that you don't understand. It takes a lot more courage to carefully study complex phenomena, and then make predictions that could open yourself up to future mockery. I have not studied climate change enough to know if I totally buy it, but watching the behavior of the those arguing for and against it, I certainly have a lot more faith in those arguing for it (despite some notable mis-steps).

      February 7, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  3. Haha sc*rew the Europeans

    I guess this is what happens after thousands of years of internal fighting, bloodletting, colonization, killing "non-believers"... and then suddenly turn into Libs and demand the rest of the world sing koombaya with them. Its divine justice.

    February 6, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. elgatoblanco

    I already saw this movie

    February 6, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Spyder

    like a kid caught in a lie, `scientists` keep coming up with explanations when the facts dont agree with their doom and gloom predictions. 40 years ago they said we were heading for a miniice age. Then the temps started going up a bit. 40 yeats is just a blink in the lifetime of the earth. Solar neutrino output affects us more than us puny humans do. We will b long gone and mother earth will survive and repair the damage we have done.

    February 6, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Spyder

    like a kid caught in a lie, `scientists` keep coming up with explanations when facts dont agree with their science. 40 years ago we were told we are heading for a mini iceage. Then temps trened upward. 40 years is a blink in the lifetime of earth. Not even statictically significant. Solar neutrino output and volcanoes have more effect than us puny humans. We will b long gone and mother earth will repair the damage we have done, and continue to nurture life on earth.

    February 6, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      The only people who were telling you forty years ago that we were headed for another Ice Age were the editors of 'Newsweek' magazine. Just in case you did not realize this, 'Newsweek' is NOT a science journal. No one was saying any such thing in the peer-reviewed science journals at that time. It is a canard.

      February 6, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fire0bama

      Spyder, very well said! The so-called "scientists" were caught faking climate data a few years ago and now they still try to "explain" their lies to this day. To these "scientists", research funding and political agenda are more important than facts and truth.

      February 6, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      The only ones lying are right wingers like yourself, weather proves you wrong every day, facts destroy your silly rhetoric.

      February 7, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  7. Spyder

    like a kid caught in a lie, `scientists` keep coming up with explanations when facts dont agree with their science. 40 years ago we were told we are heading for a mini iceage. Then temps trended upward. 40 years is a blink in the lifetime of earth. Not even statistically significant. Solar neutrino output and volcanoes have more effect than us puny humans. We will b long gone and mother earth will repair the damage we have done, and continue to nurture life on earth.

    February 6, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. SwilliamP

    Actually 'warmer weather' at location A can cause, or be associated with colder weather at location B. And ocean currents when they get out of whack, can drive atmospheric weather conditions. The lack of scientic knowledge in certain postings is painfully apparent.

    February 6, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ziggy

      So, true. Ignorance is a bliss. Some posters here need to start do some reading fast or be told by 5 year olds that they are idiots. Btw EU is the largest US trade partner (NOT CHINA) so if EU economy dives do to wether then our American will follow very soon.

      February 7, 2012 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  9. shugie

    You are morons. He is talking about how weather patterns develop.The problem with you anti global warming,vaccinations cause cancer, the moon landings were not real crowd, is that science baffles you. You think science is somehow political.It can be but science moves slowly and steadily towards a repeatable, measurable result.Hucksters and phonies end up in the trash eventually. This is a good argument for this year's weather, that's all. If you have a better one, let's hear it. Just assigning motives to the researchers does not give you an argument against their theories. Honestly, do you have anything of substance?

    February 6, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • educated public

      You can't argue with anti-science nuts. They would still believe the earth is flat if it was in their party line.
      They believe in faith yet shun facts- all the while taking pride in and enjoying all technologies and medicines that other people (rational people) invented with the science they shun. If they were dinasours they would be extinct.
      Crazy they are!

      February 6, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Consider

      Not every one who disbelieves AGW theories is a nutcase or a religious fanatic. Many factors play into changes in regional climates. The U.S. was bombarded with snow last year due to a dip in the jet stream, this year it is Europe. These things change. PDO, ENSO, under water volcanoes affecting thermo-haline currents, solar sunspot cycles, and just plain earth cycles on the magnitude of hundreds of thousands of years. Human activity also contributes to regional changes – deforestation, erosion, urban heat islands, and certainly emissions. ALL play a part. Nobody should think that one factor is the cause (human or solar or ...). We are at the tail end of a regularly occurring inter-glacial period. Since nobody recorded what the last one was like (approximately 130,000 years ago) we really do not know how they end. Scientists and researchers at both ends of this table would be better served to stop pretending they have a monopoly on the answers.

      February 7, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      You're completely right. Thank god science is NEVER wrong. For example, scientific conclusions about what foods are 'bad' and 'good' for you have remained consistent and without any debate or change in course for upwards of 6 decades. If you can't believe scientists, whom, by virtue of having gotten a degree, (proof positive of intelligence and correctness) then who can you believe? Just ask any meteorologist. They'll tell you that, along with the weather predictions for tomorrow, which will be insanely accurate, due to the comprehensive understanding of such things by scientists.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      The irony of you pseudo-intellectuals patting yourselves on the back for being WAY too smart to be "flat-earthers" is deliciously tasty. As you know, educated ones, that was the prevailing belief of so-called 'scientists' for centuries and was widely considered indubitable. MMMMMM, tasty, tasty irony.

      February 7, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    I opened this only to read the responses. The article says that the cold weather may be due to shrinking ice caps.
    Then, it may not be due to shrinking ice caps.
    I am glad that some readers realized that either way is possible, so this is not a time to start ranting about Global Warmi–Climate Change/GHU.

    February 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. educated public

    Mother Nature has a way of self-correcting even when mankind refuses to use the intelligence she gave us to recognize and respond to the obvious. Don't let politics poison your ability to see facts and apply good reason.

    February 6, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. El Duderino (if you're not into the whole brevity thing)

    I don't see any people who believe in global warming riding bicycles or using public transportation to get to work, nor do I see them hang their clothes to dry, or apply solar panels to their homes.

    February 6, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Danester

      You must not be looking very hard...

      February 6, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Spyder

    very true, also have jet stream in a wierd location, el nina/nino etc. Europe is freezing, NE States has snow and toronto doesnt. Its like spring here. If u roll the dice or flip coin 1000 times u will see wierd patterns and human nature, but look at the 1000 years to see a stattical trend, not 10 or 20. Try chi squared test for randomness on the data, and not just pre selected, but all of it.

    February 6, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. BOMBO ©

    I can already see that the credibility issue is rearing its ugly head. I agree that it is a good idea to clean up our act, but the "experts" who insisted on linking this to "global warming" have taken an awful chance. If weather patterns stabilize in the next year or two, plenty of naysayers will say I told you so. Then it will be much more difficult to get environmental legislation passed.

    February 6, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. SwilliamP

    There seems to be an assumption bt several posters that warming ocean/ less ice should equal warming everywhere. It is actually very possible for warming in location A to cause, or be associated with, cooling in point B. One theory is that global warming's effects, including changes in salinity, will disrupt the North Atlantic current and thus 'warming' could cause the next thing to an Ice Age as northern latitude Europe loses the support of the current. The lack of scientific awareness in some of the postings is painfully apparent.

    February 6, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
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