AUG 07, 2018 6:40 PM PDT

What does Arctic sea ice have to do with tornadoes?

Research coming from a new study published in the journal Climate and Atmospheric Science suggests that that low Arctic sea-ice extent (SIE) may be correlated with extreme weather events such as tornadoes within the mid-latitudes. Over the past decade, the midwestern United States which is usually known for its severe tornadoes has experienced fewer tornado touchdowns. Atmospheric scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University think that this may be a consequence of global climate change and resulting atmospheric circulation changes.

Photo: National Post

"A relationship between Arctic sea ice and tornadoes in the U.S. may seem unlikely," said Robert Jeff Trapp, co-author of the study. "But it is hard to ignore the mounting evidence in support of the connection."

The evidence that Trapp is referring to is largely a combination of statistical analyses from almost three decades of historical weather and climate data. This data determined significant correlations between tornado activity and the extent of Arctic sea ice particularly during July, though it is still unknown why this month saw such significant correlations. Under their findings, the correlation between tornadoes and Arctic SIE has to do with the path of the jet stream.

Trapp explains that "Tornadoes and their parent thunderstorms are fueled by wind shear and moisture. When the jet stream migrates north,” as a result of retreating sea ice in the Arctic, “it takes the wind shear along for the ride, but not always the moisture. So, even though thunderstorms may still develop, they tend not to generate tornadoes because one of the essential ingredients for tornado formation is now missing."

Understanding this connection will hopefully improve atmospheric scientists’ ability to predict seasonal severe weather. "One of the reasons that we focused on sea ice is because, like the ocean and land, it is relatively slow to evolve," Trapp said. "Because sea ice and the atmosphere are coupled, the response of the atmosphere is also relatively slow. We can use this property to help make long-term predictions for tornadoes and hail, similar to the way predictions are made for hurricane seasons."

Sources: Science Daily, Climate and Atmospheric Science

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
MAR 18, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
MAR 18, 2020
Drug Treatments Used For Cattle Affect Wildlife
Common drug treatments used in cattle, such as de-worming and anti-ectoparasitic products, have held effect on wildlife ...
APR 06, 2020
Earth & The Environment
APR 06, 2020
Coral reefs' genetic diversity threatened by humans
We all know that coral reefs are under extensive threat from climate change and pollution, many facing complete devastat ...
APR 13, 2020
Earth & The Environment
APR 13, 2020
Are 3D-printed corals the future of coral reefs?
Can you imagine a future where the coral reefs you see on your family snorkeling trip are composed of 3D printed corals? ...
APR 12, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
APR 12, 2020
Where we should turn our focus for ammonia emissions control
When you think of air pollution, you might not immediately think of ammonia. But in fact, when ammonia reacts with sulfu ...
APR 22, 2020
Earth & The Environment
APR 22, 2020
5 Things You Didn't Know About Earth
Happy Earth Day! All though we should take action every day to appreciate our home, planet Earth. Today it gets a little ...
MAY 24, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAY 24, 2020
The Pistol Shrimp's Secret Weapon...
Pistol shrimp have a unique reputation as one of the ocean’s most intriguing crustaceans. Most are only about the ...
Loading Comments...