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. Oil Time

    Just remember that the Conservationist have no financial stake in the game, their only goal is a healthy planet. On the other hand the oil companies have all their eggs in the trash the plant for profit game. Based on the facts, who will you believe?

    February 7, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. John Dunkel

    It's cold in winter??? NO WAAAAAY!!!!

    February 7, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Gunshot

    I was pretty thrilled with global arming till I found out it will get colder

    February 7, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Allah

    BS

    February 7, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bob

    In ancient cultures, extreme weather was thought to be punishment from their Gods, , and they would make sacrifices (human and otherwise) to their deiities.....
    Not so different here...zealous iberals seem to want to show that their God of "Global Warming" is punishing us for our modern successes in Western civilization, and rely on liberal guilt to make us believe it.

    February 7, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chrs m

      "Not so different here...zealous iberals seem to want to show that their God of "Global Warming" is punishing us for our modern successes in Western civilization, and rely on liberal guilt to make us believe it."

      No, moron. There really is evidence of global climate change.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wulf

      Yea overwhelming scientific evidence must be caused by "liberal guilt", can we give this moron a Darwin award yet?

      February 7, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • jj

      ever seen what cigarettes do to the human lungs?

      February 7, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike D

      Whereas religious fundamentalists think it's God doing it...mostly they say it's the end times, and other assorted nonsense. I'll take science over politicized ignorance any day of the week, Bob.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • lolol

      we should sacrafice some liberals for our gods !!!!

      February 7, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      Sorry, but no. It is conservatives who seemed to think that God was punishing Texas with a drought and heat wave this summer. Texas Governor Rick Perry, who seemed to be a favorite of conservatives at that time, was publicly praying to God for relief from the heat and drought.

      Does that clarify things for you, stupid?

      February 7, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • paul

      Why is this a liberal thing? Do you think only a liberal believes this is true? Even Bush acknowledged it.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Barney D.

    So even if there is some natural element to global warming (which would be the biggest coincidence in the history of coincidences [our carbon output has mirrored rising temps - carbon is known to cause a greenhouse effect in the atmosphere], why would that be such a good thing? Scientists have agreed (1) we are at least partly to blame for rising global temperatures and (2) rising temperatures are not a good thing for us because species will have to adapt, including us.

    Why would we NOT take action to curb our effect on the climate regardless of the degree of its effect? Oh, yeah, I remember why – because it means you have to do something.

    Even if man isn't to blame: To the deniers who believe there is no evidence that global warming is man-made (which is nearly unheard of in the scientific community), therefore, we shouldn't take action...what if a "natural" asteroid was heading to pulverize Earth? Wouldn't you want to take action to avoid a natural asteroid event? Why?

    February 7, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • t-bone

      wouldnt matter.
      Asteroid couldnt be stopped, but it would make for a beautiful sunrise and sunset.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barney D.

      Haven't you seen Armageddon with Bruce Willis?

      February 7, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      SO why should I do anything? What’s in it for me to change? I’m serious. I’m not changing a dang thing unless I get something out of it for me. All I see is “We have to do this….” or “We have to do that..”. And every such change merely costs me money and I get nothing in return. I’ll be dead in 30 or so years anyway. And quite frankly, the shifts appear to be pushing the cold air over Europe freezing those suckers while leaving the winters in the US milder. So again, what’s in it for me? You want me to pay more money and live with colder winters in the US in order to benefit Europe? Screw that.

      Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go grill some food. Cook up some fresh seafood and Kobe beef over some redwood brickettes. Sure maybe all these items will disappear as the Earth warms. But that’s not my problem. I’ll enjoy my time on this Earth while I can in any way I can.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. t-bone

    Why dont we have the Government solve this buy throwing tax payer dollars at it?
    Maybe Solyndra can fix this problem with a few billion of our tax dollars.
    ....oh, oops, my bad.

    February 7, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. hostage707

    Its called HAARP. Do some homework. US Air force claims we will "own the weather by 2020". Many programs on Discovery Channel about government controlled weather. You cannot have it hot and cold at the same time. Global warming is a fraud.

    February 7, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. alamona

    Couldn't have summed that up better. A+

    February 7, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Len

    Wow what an eye opening news story, it is cold during winter.

    February 7, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tatonka72usn

    So, let me get this straight.....if winters are too warm, it's a function of Global Warming. If, on the other hand, winters are too cold, it's a function of Global Warming. Ok, just wanted to make sure I all the logic lined up.....*scratches head*

    February 7, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barney D.

      Yeah, it does require some reading comprehension (shrinking ice caps causing climate change), but if you can't do it, you can't do it. No worries Tatonka! Don't need to scratch your head, those who understand the article and are informed are aware of what is going on.

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

      Global warming does not mean it's always hot. The term has been changed to Climate change due to people who just don't get it. Like you.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • PB

      Maybe this will help? What we labelled years ago as Global Warming' is probably not the best word as it invites misinterpretation and misjudging. If you ever want to show ignorance just blurt out to an educated person on climate matters during a severe winter storm 'So much for Glboal warming eh?!" because it is weather extremes that man-mad epollutions is helping to create!! There will always be hurricanes, blizzards, ice storms, heat waves, etc... however what all our carbon- Co2 choking emissions are helping to produce is weather extremes! That Cat 3 hurricane 50 yrs ago might very well be a Cat 4 or 5 today. That 12 inch blizzard might very well be 18 or 24 inches. The heating of the ocean by just a few degrees releases more moisture into the air which in turn enhances our otherwise normal weather patterns. Hope this helps? I suppose I'll take my fair share of ribbing but really, the analogy of wha ta cigarette does to lungs is fitting! Do your research in a non-partisan way and you'll start to see the evidence.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. buffalo

    Global warming is caused by all the hot air coming out of Newt Gingrich.

    February 7, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • j-pap

      zing

      February 7, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • paul

      Not all, but a good percentage.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rob

    To the people that believe this disputes global warming theories please keep in mind the global warming is raising the 'average' global temperature by a only a couple of degrees. Those couple of degrees will have adverse effects on the global ecosystem that many scientist believe will be catastrophic. But global warming does not dictate warmer temperatures everywhere, or all the time.

    February 7, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jamilabalaba

    "Why is Europe buried in snow?" asks the headline.
    Because it snowed.
    Keep it simple people.

    February 7, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Krytos

      For a follow up question to snow in Europe. Why isn't there any snow in the northern US that's usually buried right now? Second, since the ice caps used to reach to Tennessee and have been melting for several thousand years, how do you plan on stopping climate change?

      February 7, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kingofthenet

    Climate Change Deniers are mostly devout Religious People, they see 'Mystery' and 'Miracles' everywhere, religion DEMANDS you not think too deeply and just accept 'truths' that can never be proven.Scientists disrespect this way of thinking and DEMAND a real answer, this is why they distrust them.

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

      or maybe it's because conservatives can see through the lies of the z1onist scientific dictatorship....

      February 7, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • j-pap

      scientists are zionists now? And the whole time I thought it was right wingers who supported israel.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
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