From: University of Massachusetts at Amherst via EurekAlert
Published December 17, 2012 05:42 AM

Arctic Hurricanes and Climate

Climate scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and in England report the first conclusive evidence that Arctic hurricanes, also known as polar lows, play a significant role in driving ocean water circulation and climate.

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Though it seems like an oxymoron, Arctic hurricanes happen, complete with a central "eye," extreme low barometric pressure and towering 30-foot waves that can sink small ships and coat metal platforms with thick ice, threatening oil and gas exploration. Now climate scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and in England report the first conclusive evidence that Arctic hurricanes, also known as polar lows, play a significant role in driving ocean water circulation and climate.

Results point to potentially cooler conditions in Europe and North America in the 21st century than other models predict.

Geoscientist Alan Condron at UMass Amherst and Ian Renfrew at the University of East Anglia, U.K., write in the current issue of Nature Geoscience that every year thousands of these strong cyclones or polar lows occur over Arctic regions in the North Atlantic, but none are simulated by the latest climate prediction models, which makes it difficult to reliably forecast climate change in Europe and North America over the next couple of decades.

"Before polar lows were first seen by satellites, sailors frequently returned from the Arctic seas with stories of encounters with fierce storms that seemed to appear out of nowhere," says Condron, a physical oceanographer. "Because of their small size, these storms were often missing from their weather charts, but they are still capable of producing hurricane-force winds and waves over 11 meters high (36 feet)."

Arctic Hurricane image via NEODAAS Dundee Satellite Receiving Station

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