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.

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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. toppgunnery

    Then there are those such as the president who has not done what he said that he would make changes to, to prevent climate change due to huge hydrocarbon emissions....go more toward replacing engineering that produces harmful greenhouse gases such as those hydrocarbons to be replaced by GREEN ENERGY. We need a president that actually follows up on one of the most important detrimental phenomenons to the whole world and this is replacement of OIL burning engines in ALL vehicles around the world with electric hydrogen fuel cell counterparts!

    February 7, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  2. sonny

    Lets bring Al Gore back as POTUS and tax every home $2000, establish the carbon credit scam and that will cure everything. Right, this is a total BS article.

    February 7, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • H in Texas

      Hope you can tread water for a really long time. I love that people care more about politics than their own survival.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. WASP

    i love peoples lack of understanding of how this world truly works. warmer summers means more melting of polar ice, seeing the ocean is darker then ice it absorbs that heat instead of it being bounced back into space by polar ice. as the heat is released it happens in the form of water vapor, more water vapor adds to larger longer lasting storms. global warming is a two sided event, planet gets warmer, then we lose ocean currents planet gets colder. i.e. new ice age where up to half of the human population could die. our planet is very delicate, it has just the correct conditions to support life.....those conditions change too much one way say colder we could have an ice planet again, too much the other say green house gases we could end up looking like venus. venus is an example of out of control greenhouse effect. do some basic research folks and quit listenning to political mombo-jumbo.

    February 7, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. toppgunnery

    spot on CORRECT!

    February 7, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  5. Charlie

    Central and Eastern Europe had cold nasty winters like this during WW2, when the Arctic ice cap was "normal".
    I just finished reading my daughter's 2 graduate level books on climatology throughout geologic history, one of which had a "global warming agenda". The only that is true for sure is that Earth's climate changes through time and CO2 levels have been as high or higher than they are headed in a couple of centuries (1200ppm) in the past (most recently in the Cretaceous 65M years ago). "Scientists" that blame ultra short term variations on CO2 rise are most likely idiots.


    February 7, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Greenspam

      I just read some PhD level books which say exactly opposite what you say. You must have been reading the bible instead.

      February 7, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  6. Joe

    Winter is coming.

    February 7, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  7. jonah

    The reason for all these crazy weather patterns are the dumping of aluminum in the air by airplanes. That is what we are seeing all over the world. Chemtrails. It really is disheartening but it is happening. Weather has got to be effected with millions and millions of tons of chemicals being put into our atmosphere all over the world.

    February 7, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jack-Florida

    Lets not forget CNN's Climate Change Special they aired showing a "in Greenland small rocky off shore island that just became visible for the first time because of Global warming. No one even knew it existed stated the CNN research team and Anderson Cooper. It seems they forgot to look at the old photos in the local library from the 1940s they showed folks picnicing on the same island. The next day after it aired CNN did report the OOPS. C'mon folks get real. The only thing man made here is the HOAX

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

    I think the article is pretty clear in not defining or hypothesizing without using the word 'may'.....

    The polar ice IS shrinking, the July temperature WAS an aberrant high, facts. Now we can argue whether this is a man made phenomena (although many educated climentologists seem to argue this fact). However, I, as an oncologist, argue differently. I believe it is because of routine shifts in the weather patterns.

    I suggest, you trust my expertise. ANd, you may want consult with a climentologist the next time you have cancer, since there expertise in this matter is exhaustive and, I as your doctor routinely ignore facts and experts.

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

    It's a simple formula, More Trapped Heat+ Winter Season= More Snow. Imagine you could suddenly cool a rain forest, it would instantly become a 'Snow Forest"

    February 7, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jim8

    Here in California, it's the same every day, warm, dry, and not a breath of wind. Not a cloud in the sky. It's nice, but shouldn't it rain sometime?

    February 7, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. Misha

    I have no issue with supporting a lower carbon footprint. I drive a leaf. My home is on wind power – so I have a truly zero emissions car and house. That said, I don't believe that humans have anything much to contribute to global climate change. It cycles – the caps melt some, the saline pump slows, the poles cool, they freeze, the caps grow, the saline pumps speeds up, the poles start to melt again. Whoopee ! It truly irks me that the natural cycle is being used for political purposes – to tax carbon emissions – and then use the money for ... wait for it ... not carbon reduction ... but for the general tax purpose. The politicians will find any reason at all to tax or to set policy for everyone on any excuse. And as for CNN and the media – it makes for great print / video – but shame on you for promoting it.

    February 7, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  13. Bemis29

    Let me enlighten the Republican dolts who were not born with enough intelligence or critical thinking ability to understand even basic science. These are the same hypocritical block heads that are the first in line to buy the latest iPhone ( which we would not have without advances in science)...only to ignore 95% consensus in the scientific community that global warming is real. It is no coincidence that the majority of them are bible thumpers who again pick and choose what parts of the bible to ignore. If you were to take a national survey of how many fingers a normal human has on a would always come up with a small percentage of imbeciles that report other than five. These are same imbeciles who are too stupid to even come close to understanding even basic junior high science.

    February 7, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Drumcode

      Well said. It is scientifically proven that majority of conservatives have lower IQ's than majority of liberals.

      February 7, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • lolol

      you don't get funding if you are not part of the 95% consensus. why don't you shut up for once in your life

      February 7, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • RealityChecker

      Yeah... those colder temperatures is your "proof" that it's getting warmer!!!! BBBBBAAWAAHHHHAAA!!!!!!

      February 7, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      Here is the problem, there was a 99% consensus at one time that the earth was flat; 100% believed the earth to be the center of the Universe. So your outrageous claim of a 95% consensus means SQUAT. However, there is much debate in the scientific literature to the point the consensus is more like 50%

      In fact, as an engineer who has been trained to look at data and evaluate data I can tell you that based on the last 1,000,000 years of Ice Core data we are in the same 130,000 year cycle.

      February 7, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • t-bone

      That was a lot of words just to tell us what side youre on. But it still isnt proof.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • RealityChecker

      Liberal thinking = colder temperatures means it's getting warmer. Conservative thinking = colder temperatures means it is NOT getting warmer.

      No wonder 81% of Americans REJECT liberalism.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr. N.

      Um, 95% is not a consensus. Funny how you criticize others yet don't eve know the meaning of the words you use. There are ways to convince others, and ways to imply the're right. Ironically, you're doing the opposite of what you want. Why should someone that is at the same time ignorant and full of himself be taken seriously?

      February 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • phatboi

      Yup global warming making Europe colder. I love global warming, no matter what happens, whether things get colder or hotter, it's global warming. It's the only scientific phenomena that can be blamed for everything.

      After we've been plunged into the next ice age, there will still be people saying "No it's global warming stupid!"

      And there are 4 fingers and a thumb on a hand, not 5 fingers.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • tim08

      Religion had nothing to do with the article. Your inclusion and apparent venom towards it only speaks to your own bias, prejudice and hatred.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • MST

      For all of you Lib, Conservative Repubs, or Dems... nothing can be scientifically proven. It can be supported but there is no such thing as scientifically proven. It is not within the tentative nature of science for something to be absolute. Science is generally regarded as being reliable because of rigorous, repeated testing and because scientific knowledge is being constantly revised through empirical observation.

      Scientific literacy. Get Some.

      Scientific literacy. Get Some.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike in NYC

      Okay ... now that you're done abusing 'bible thumpers' – what exactly is it you're enlightening everyone about? Your statement opens with the assertion that you are going to enlighten only to go on to do nothing but spew a string of insults.

      I'm assuming that your comment that "These are the same hypocritical block heads that are the first in line to buy the latest iPhone ( which we would not have without advances in science)...only to ignore 95% consensus in the scientific community that global warming is real" is supposed to be your brilliant postulate. Please, if you're going to insult blocks of people, provide some scientific references beyond YOUR statement that there is a 95% consensus "in the scietific community." Obviously you've never taken a course in debating while in your fancy liberal school.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raziel Chernerko

      yes, Reality checker. maybe you should get a reality check while you're at it, you dimwit.

      Global warming -> melting of ice caps -> colder water in oceans --> colder weather

      Do you also want me to draw you a map of it in crayon so you understand better?

      Conservative moron.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bbbubbba

      WOW! Republicans, Christians, Scientists, ... and here I thought this article was just about polar ice caps!! Boy do I feel stupid!

      February 7, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • T_Suisei

      So very true... Some of their comments are so amazingly moronic that I think, "This has to be a troll." The sad fact is that most of them are probably not.

      February 7, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Senor Ed

    Science? Bah, hogwash. There's no "global warming" and the Earth is only 6000 years old.

    February 7, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. the_dude

    Don't you know everything is caused by global warning. Didn't you know???

    February 7, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
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