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. cf

    What's funny is that what's happening is EXACTLY what scientists predicted, yet there are still people who say "Scientists are stupid and don't know anything and science is a scam."

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

      Scientists have predicted that global warming will cause higher temperatures, colder temperatures, floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, earthquakes, and just about everything in between. Congratulations to them for being right.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Sean

    Interesting story. Sounds like a good plot for a movie.

    February 7, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. pijoe

    Got it. Bottom line....Melting ice means warmer winters...okay that makes sense....except when we have colder winters...then the cold weather is the result of the melting ice. It must be right...they have globes in the text of the report with arrows showing the direction of the trade winds. All very sceintific. It's just like Al's graphs showing how America will be under water once the ice caps melt away.

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

      I know science is hard, but try and stay with me here. These people know a hell of a lot more about climate science than you do. Just because CNN has dumbed it down so you can understand the words they use doesn't make it false.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Patrish

    It's a no brainer that human's outputs are affecting the climate. Yes, climate change happens but a very slow rate. So go ahead and stick your head in the sand you non- believers – we don't expect you believe in science, or even to think for yourself.

    February 7, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. diglo

    When you fly in a plane, do you doubt the science behind the technology that makes it possible? When you turn on a television, do you ever ask yourself- how does that work? No, you just sit there, sucking up oxygen. What's oxygen? I don't know, let's go to walmart and take a spin in the chicken fryer.

    You all can stupid yourself into the next 50 years. I choose to be educated. And my children will be educated. We'll be figuring out ways to cure your diseases, get food on your table, and sell you more crap that you don't need.

    And you'll beg us for more.

    XOXO, the rest of the world.

    February 7, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tom

    Not this, again. What's hilarious is that the overt suggestion is that man-made global warming is the cause of the increased cold in Europe this year (out of the blue, no less!) but the first paragraph undermines this suggestion. In recorded history (past 5 decades) this has been seen before. So, then is it reasonable to assume that global warming was the cause last time? If not, what was and how has it been ruled out as a factor this time? At least I can count on the consistent bias of the communist news network. Science my ass.

    February 7, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • cameryxle

      lol so funny...if russia gets extraordinarily cold then its global warming . If russia is green in the middle of feburary its also global warming. I think the pro global warming peeps are writing this article to head off critics who might dare to move "global-warming" from gospel to a not sure level.

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

    Curious. This weather anomaly happens shortly after a huge solar storm.

    February 7, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Quid Malmborg

      Are you implying, or do you believe, that the existing weather pattern in Europe is a result of this solar storm? One would think that increasing solar radiation would heat the atmosphere causing an abnormally warm winter. Periods of warm weather in the northern hemisphere over the past few centuries show some correlation with increased sun spot activity during that time. The current European cold snap appears to be an effect of geography, not solar insolation, with air circulation being affected by lack of sea ice.

      February 7, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • kalils

      Yeah, Increased solar flare activity is expected to cause extreme weather conditions.

      February 7, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • kalils

      Magnetic Field Shift caused by solar flares can cause hot and cold weather extremes.

      February 7, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave N

      It's the evil Global Warming! Let's put it on the terrorist watch list!

      February 7, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. nrk

    Read a book and you'll understand that there is merit to these discussions.
    It is not about Al Gore, or CNN; not everything in this world is politically fabricated.

    You must understand that the climate of the Earth is extremely dynamic, no one engine runs it. I have a problem with the right figure above. I live in Florida. Last year we had one of the coldest winters on record. This year we had one of the warmest. Then why does it show both the Europe region and eastern U.S. reciving cooler wind currents?

    February 7, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • JAANC

      maybe you need to GET EDUCATED and realize that the IPCC falsified their data in order to obtain a political goal (it's called a carbon tax and it's the way the government will exert additional pressure on everyone's life/livlihood.. this is a blatant attempt to cause chaos..
      did you ever hear of the "little ice age" that ended in the early 1800s? that had NOTHING to do with "global warming" or industrialization but it happened right after the medival WARM perioud (that was warmer than normal)..

      February 7, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bigd

      I am always curious how man made global warming is the culprit of today's weather swings but pre industrial revolution events like the Ice Age and thousands of years of global heating and cooling are explained away as natural phenomenon. How about we look up in the sky during a pretty day and focus on that big orange ball that is the hottest thing around and ponder the possibility that maybe we get most of our temperature fluctuation from that orb and man made warming possibly...possibly, accounts for some small percentage of temperature change. But that just makes too much sense.

      February 7, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      JAANC
      The cold of the 1880s was caused global warming but not as you think. It was caused by a huge volcanic blast that cooled the earth for many years. Thats the sciece of it.

      February 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. HeadInRump

    This was actually predicted a while back... Please look for early stories on the change in patterns that could happen due to rising temps. The main reason Europe isn't covered in ice is the warm waters from the north Atlantic current. If this is disrupted, Europe will be devastated. It seems like it is happening now.

    It if very funny when people try to say, "well climate change is crap because it is really cold this winter".. Please get your head out of your rump!

    February 7, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Curt

    Atheists fail at life.. Or probably more at death, because unless God comes out and proves it to them that God exists...

    They don't have any faith.

    February 7, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Quid Malmborg

      That bitter, snarky quip of yours doesn't exactly make you look like much of a champ. Is all that bile and bitterness the best that Religion has done for you?

      (Still trying to see what your comment has to do with the weather, anywhere...)

      February 7, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Get_educated

    Scientists have been looking out for the good of common man for centuries. They study Math and Science subjects avoided by many and especially politicians and businessmen on the board of companies. As you type on a computer do you question the scientists who created the machine as not knowing what they were talking about, just because you are too uneducated to understand the science? Of course not. So leave the politics aside when talking science. You may not agree with the solution being proposed (government regulation) but you should encourage a solution of some sort because it is the right thing to do for future generations

    February 7, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. pijoe

    I can't wait to hear the global warming scientists tell us that 2011-12 is the warmest winter on record...AGAIN? I live in AK, and although we have had warmer winters in the last few years, this winter is the coldest and snowiest I've ever experienced. Nov near record snow. Dec near record snow. Jan near record cold. But this is all due to global warming...as were the last several years of warmer weather. lol Got it.

    February 7, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      Re-read the article.

      February 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      Temperature records are based on averages of actual weather from all over the globe, not just where you live. Also, the label of global warming is a bit of misnomer because some of the climate change predicted by these same scientists actually forecasts certain areas of the globe getting colder or dryer or more prone to flooding, etc. Like any scientific observation, understanding the effects of man's contribution to the change of the chemical composition of the air (which can be proven based on samples from ice cores) is a process and scientists are hardly telling you that you should expect approximately 3 more days of beach weather per year, but rather than certain cyclical changes in the weather may change and that change may profoundly effect many different areas of the planet.

      February 7, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • cw

      pijoe, note the word "global" in the phrase global warming... Not regional. Try again.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Right

    You know, CNN gets somebody to give an explanation for the weather. But it is nonsense. There is no way to judge whether their explanation is correct. Scientists always require tests of hypothesis to conclude it is right. With CNN the scientific method goes out the window. Might as well conclude that the cold weather results from jet exhaust.

    February 7, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Myron Mesecke

    But in October it was reported that the Arctic was refreezing 40% faster than normal. And each year since 2007 Arctic sea ice has been recovering (growing). But why let facts and actually data get in the way of a good scary story.

    February 7, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • JustTheFacts

      Global warming is never claimed or referenced in the above article, only in others' discussions of the article. NOAA released this information about sea ice coverage in July 2011 saying that for that particular MONTH, the sea-ice coverage was at its lowest value in 3 decades. That doesn't mean there is less ice overall, but rather that for that time in the year, the sea-ice was at a 30 year minimum. And to everyone else talking about facts, I know for a fact the CNN Weather Department is careful to present unbiased sides of weather and climate arguements. Publishing a particular study and commenting on it is in no way endorsing or supporting it, but it is merely providing you all with interesting information about weather related issues. CNN is not furthering this argument, we're merely presenting the results of someone's hypothesized, observed, and/or modeled research.

      February 7, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Turtleguy

    What a bunch of idiots in the responses here. Go ahead and deny climate change – anyone with eyes can see that you are a moron. Claim that it's normal for the climate to fluctuate – of course it is. That doesn't amke it a bad idea to plan for it and to at least LOOK to see if it can be mitigated. it's all well and good to point out that in the Greater Dryas the norethern hemisphere had extreme winters. Guess what. There are more than six times as many people now as there were then. We don't have the luxurry of immense reserves of firewood to heat with, nor is the housing stock universally set up to run on wood. People no longer grow and store their own food for the entire winter. We are not the same society today as the one that existed 300 years ago, and we will be much more severely affected by extreme weather and by weather-induced shortages of food and fuel. The sooner you idiots get your heads out of your butts and realize this, the better chance you'll have of surviving.

    February 7, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
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