February 28, 2011

Dave Eichorn of the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at SUNY has a video explaining the recent paradoxical winters, with historically warm arctic temperatures, and record breaking cold and snowfall in the US and Eurasia.

One Response to “Warm Arctic, Cold Winter Paradox”

1. neilrieck Says:

Adding to points presented in the video, I was under the impression that the Arctic Oscillation is loosely coupled to El Niño-La Niña…
http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/essay_bond.html
…and that the cold we feel further south is proportional to the melting occurring farther north.

Some people wonder how this can be but recall these facts from high school science class:

1) one calorie of heat is required to raise the temperature of one gram of water (or ice) by one degree Celsius.

2) eighty calories of heat are required to convert zero degree Celsius ice into zero degree Celsius water (state change only)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_of_solidification

3) 541 calories of heat are required to convert 100 degree water into 100 degree steam (state change only)
http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/thermo/phase2.html#c3

Refrigerators “consume energy” to produce ice or cool our build air by forcing a man-made gas to change state “from liquid to gas” in the presence of water or air.

What is happening in the arctic is this: a warming climate moves excess heat from the equator to the poles warming them close to the melting point of ice. Wind moving over the ice finishes the melt (80 calories are removed for every gram) results in colder air moving south.

So, why do the Arctic and Antarctic behave differently? The Arctic is just a chunk of ice floating in water with an average elevation of zero feet. This means that the North Pole is directly coupled to the water temperature. The Antarctic is mostly ice sitting on continental rock with an average elevation of 2000 feet (600 meters). Remember that elevation always brings cooling.