Arctic winter warming is damaging subtropical Asia

While people are aware temperatures are rising in the coldest parts of the planet, new research shows this is causing anomalies in the warmest regions on Earth. 

An international team of scientists, with members from Switzerland, Canada, South Korea, Japan and the UK,  believe they have compelling evidence to show the scale of globally connected weather events. 

The study combined Earth system modelling, satellite information, local observations, and indexed temperatures from the surface of the Barents-Kara Sea. Based on this data, the team conducting the work found a link between higher than average Arctic temperatures, and the resulting change in atmospheric circulation, and climate anomalies in East Asia. Essentially, the former getting hotter is making the latter colder.

This has a profound impact on the local environment, reducing vegetation activity in evergreen subtropics, with damage still evident into spring, for example broken tree branches caused by unexpected snowfalls. Crop yields and blossoming cycles were also adversely affected.

Perhaps most worryingly, a reduction in carbon uptake capacity among plants and trees in regions that have been impacted was also evident, with a drop of around 65 megatons during winter and spring. Putting that into context, Switzerland’s annual fossil fuel output is around 8.8 megatons.

 ‘This study highlights how complex the effects of climate change are. While we observe strong warming in the Arctic system, especially over the Barents-Kara Sea, we have now discovered that this warming affects ecosystems thousands of kilometres away and over multiple weeks through climate teleconnections,’ said Gabriela Schaepman-Strub, co-author of the study. ‘Arctic warming is not only threatening the polar bear, but will affect us in many other ways.’

In related news, thawing permafrost in the Arctic could be exposing the local population to gases known to cause cancer. 

Image credit: Caroline Ross



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