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Fewer cold snaps in the forecast

Other factors counter effects of Arctic winds, simulations suggest

4:49pm, April 2, 2015

COLD WAVE  A warming world will reduce the frequency of cold snaps in the Northern Hemisphere, such as this one that struck Chicago in January 2014, new research suggests. Some scientists had previously suggested that changing wind patterns would increase the occurrence of such events.

Bitter bouts of unusually cold days will become less frequent in much of the Northern Hemisphere as the planet warms, two new studies suggest.

Some scientists had suggested that winter cold snaps would become more common in the future as Arctic warming caused frigid polar winds to waver and dip southward. But that wind waviness is minor compared with other expected climate changes, researchers report in the March issue of the Journal of Climate. Using climate simulations, they found that the shrinking temperature difference between the Arctic and lower latitudes will stabilize temperatures in the hemisphere.

In a separate study published online March 30 in Environmental Research Letters, researchers estimate that the frequency of cold snaps will actually decrease by about 20 percent by the 2030s.

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