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Arctic warming bolsters summer heat waves

Slowing jet stream spawns weaker continent-cooling storms

2:00pm, March 12, 2015
warming map

SCORCHING SUMMER  The waning of summer storms due to Arctic warming can exacerbate summertime heat waves across the Northern Hemisphere, such as the record-setting summer 2003 season chronicled above in Europe, new research suggests. Red regions experienced hotter July temperatures than those measured in 2001.

Sweltering summertime heat waves are on the rise across the Northern Hemisphere because of atmospheric changes brought on by Arctic warming, new research shows.

After examining 35 years of weather data, researchers spotted a decline in the strength of summer storms that carry cool, moist air across the northern continents. The sagging of these storms is the result of wind pattern changes induced by the rapidly warming Arctic, the researchers report online March 13 in Science.

Without the relief offered by these storms, the Northern Hemisphere will face longer bouts of intense summer heat, notes lead author Dim Coumou, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

“It’s the duration of heat waves that makes them devastating,” he says. “If you have several weeks of extremely high temperatures, then you tend to see massive

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