New observations this year about snow, ice and temperatures support the conclusion that the Arctic is unlikely to return to the conditions known in the 20th century — and that's likely to affect the weather in the lower 48 United States.
That was this year's key message in the annual update of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Arctic report card, released Thursday. The key points, a video and links to scientific reports by 69 scientists from eight countries are available from NOAA online.
The report card is one way that scientists share information about trends they're seeing in the Arctic as a result of the region's warming cycle: Higher air temperatures melt snow and ice, leaving the ocean and land darker, and they then absorb more solar energy, causing more heating and melting.
There was a link between changes in the Arctic and the severe cold weather last winter in eastern North America, northern Europe and eastern Asia. Usually, cold air is bottled up in the Arctic, but this year the cold was blown south.
"As we lose more sea ice, we'll probably see more of that," said Jim Overland, an oceanographer with NOAA in Seattle. Many scientists are studying the link, but they don't fully understand it yet, he said.