Cold winter extremes in northern continents linked to Arctic sea ice loss

Qiuhong Tang, Xuejun Zhang, Xiaohua Yang, Jennifer A. Francis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

217 Scopus citations


The satellite record since 1979 shows downward trends in Arctic sea ice extent in all months, which are smallest in winter and largest in September. Previous studies have linked changes in winter atmospheric circulation, anomalously cold extremes and large snowfalls in mid-latitudes to rapid decline of Arctic sea ice in the preceding autumn. Using observational analyses, we show that the winter atmospheric circulation change and cold extremes are also associated with winter sea ice reduction through an apparently distinct mechanism from those related to autumn sea ice loss. Associated with winter sea ice reduction, a high-pressure anomaly prevails over the subarctic, which in part results from fewer cyclones owing to a weakened gradient in sea surface temperature and lower baroclinicity over sparse sea ice. The results suggest that the winter atmospheric circulation at high northern latitudes associated with Arctic sea ice loss, especially in the winter, favors the occurrence of cold winter extremes at middle latitudes of the northern continents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number014036
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


  • Arctic
  • cold winter extreme
  • northern continents
  • sea ice

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