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Arctic Cyclones1 Are Getting Stronger, More Damaging

CLIMATEWIRE | The strongest Arctic cyclone2 ever observed ripped across the icy waters west of Greenland in January 2022. With wind speeds topping 67 miles per hour and waves more than 26 feet high, the storm chewed through thick winter sea ice.
More than 154,000 square miles of ice disappeared across the Barents, Kara and Laptev seas in a matter of days, scientists later determined3. It was the largest six-day sea ice loss ever recorded in the area.
That’s a sharp blow in a region where skyrocketing temperatures have steadily4 eaten away at sea ice cover for decades. The Arctic is warming as much as four times faster than the global average, and some studies warn that the Arctic Ocean could see its first ice-free summer within a decade or so.
Strong cyclones can speed up the ice cover’s demise5. And events like the tempest of 2022 may happen more often in the future, scientists warn. New research finds that Arctic cyclones are growing stronger as the climate warms. In fact, they’ve been strengthening for decades.
The study, published Oct. 2 in the journal Communications Earth & Environment, helps address a long-standing debate about trends in Arctic cyclones. Scientists predict that the storms should intensify6 with continued warming. But different studies have come to different conclusions about whether or not Arctic cyclones are actually strengthening over time.
That’s partly because previous research often has focused on bits and pieces of the Arctic cyclone puzzle, said lead study author Xiangdong Zhang, a senior scientist at the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies at North Carolina State University. Some scientists have looked only at the total number of Arctic cyclones, some have examined only their intensity7 and others have investigated how long they last.
The new study attempts to put all the pieces together, Zhang said. The researchers integrated measurements of all the different aspects of Arctic cyclone behavior to develop a new index of cyclone activity.
The study finds that strong Arctic cyclones have been happening more frequently since the 1950s. They’re also lasting8 longer, giving them more time to wreak9 havoc10 on the icy seas. And the trend has accelerated in the last few decades.
A few factors have contributed to the strengthening storms, the research suggests. And some of them have clear links to climate change.
Temperatures already tend to differ over land masses, open ocean and sea ice. Arctic warming has further sharpened the temperature gradient between these different zones. The change in these gradients affects the formation of storms over the Arctic Ocean, helping11 cyclones grow more intense.
Changes in the Earth’s jet streams also have played a part, Zhang said, especially in the winter. Jet streams are fast-flowing currents of air circling the planet, with a strong influence on global weather patterns.
Some research suggests that winter jet streams are growing more wavy12meandering13 up and down as they flow around the Earth. That’s helping the air currents steer14 more cyclones into the Arctic.
Changes in the jet stream may be related to climate change, although scientists are still debating the exact mechanisms15. Some research suggests that rapid Arctic warming is altering the atmosphere in ways that affect the flow of air around the Earth. But that’s still the subject of ongoing16 research.
Meanwhile, a strengthening vortex of polar air currents in the troposphere has helped strengthen summer cyclones. It’s still unclear why the vortex is shifting, according to Zhang.
“This is also potentially associated with the warming trend,” he said. “It’s still an open question. Research is still going on.”
Strengthening cyclones may have some serious implications for the Arctic.
These storms transfer heat and moisture into the region, while stirring up the oceans with strong winds and high waves. This can speed up the melting of Arctic sea ice and expose more open ocean to the atmosphere, allowing the water to soak up more heat from the sun. It also can mix up the water, transferring heat from deeper layers of the ocean to the surface, melting even more ice.
Warming and melting in the Arctic Ocean may transform the marine17 ecosystem18, scientists warn. Some polar fish species may be forced to migrate even closer to the North Pole or risk extinction19, while new species begin moving in. Animals such as polar bears and walruses20, who use the sea ice to hunt or rest, will suffer.
The warming ocean also will help further accelerate the overall rate of Arctic climate change, Zhang added. And while it’s still a subject of debate, Arctic warming has the potential to cause further shifts in the jet streams — which could alter weather patterns across the Northern Hemisphere.
Arctic cyclones interact with a wide variety of elements in the Earth’s climate system. That makes them a prime subject for research, Zhang said.
“Arctic cyclone study is a hot topic,” he said. “There’s a large number of people and colleagues working on this.”
Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2023. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.


1 cyclones 17cc49112c36617738bb1601499ae56d     
n.气旋( cyclone的名词复数 );旋风;飓风;暴风
  • The pricipal objective in designing cyclones is to create a vortex. 设计旋风除尘器的主要目的在于造成涡旋运动。 来自辞典例句
  • Middle-latitude cyclones originate at the popar front. 中纬度地区的气旋发源于极锋。 来自辞典例句
2 cyclone cy3x7     
  • An exceptionally violent cyclone hit the town last night.昨晚异常猛烈的旋风吹袭了那个小镇。
  • The cyclone brought misery to thousands of people.旋风给成千上万的人带来苦难。
3 determined duszmP     
  • I have determined on going to Tibet after graduation.我已决定毕业后去西藏。
  • He determined to view the rooms behind the office.他决定查看一下办公室后面的房间。
4 steadily Qukw6     
  • The scope of man's use of natural resources will steadily grow.人类利用自然资源的广度将日益扩大。
  • Our educational reform was steadily led onto the correct path.我们的教学改革慢慢上轨道了。
5 demise Cmazg     
  • He praised the union's aims but predicted its early demise.他赞扬协会的目标,但预期这一协会很快会消亡。
  • The war brought about the industry's sudden demise.战争道致这个行业就这么突然垮了。
6 intensify S5Pxe     
  • We must intensify our educational work among our own troops.我们必须加强自己部队的教育工作。
  • They were ordered to intensify their patrols to protect our air space.他们奉命加强巡逻,保卫我国的领空。
7 intensity 45Ixd     
  • I didn't realize the intensity of people's feelings on this issue.我没有意识到这一问题能引起群情激奋。
  • The strike is growing in intensity.罢工日益加剧。
8 lasting IpCz02     
  • The lasting war debased the value of the dollar.持久的战争使美元贬值。
  • We hope for a lasting settlement of all these troubles.我们希望这些纠纷能获得永久的解决。
9 wreak RfYwC     
  • She had a burning desire to wreak revenge.她复仇心切。
  • Timid people always wreak their peevishness on the gentle.怯懦的人总是把满腹牢骚向温和的人发泄。
10 havoc 9eyxY     
  • The earthquake wreaked havoc on the city.地震对这个城市造成了大破坏。
  • This concentration of airborne firepower wrought havoc with the enemy forces.这次机载火力的集中攻击给敌军造成很大破坏。
11 helping 2rGzDc     
  • The poor children regularly pony up for a second helping of my hamburger. 那些可怜的孩子们总是要求我把我的汉堡包再给他们一份。
  • By doing this, they may at times be helping to restore competition. 这样一来, 他在某些时候,有助于竞争的加强。
12 wavy 7gFyX     
  • She drew a wavy line under the word.她在这个词的下面画了一条波纹线。
  • His wavy hair was too long and flopped just beneath his brow.他的波浪式头发太长了,正好垂在他的眉毛下。
13 meandering 0ce7d94ddbd9f3712952aa87f4e44840     
  • The village seemed deserted except for small boys and a meandering donkey. 整个村子的人都像是逃光了,只留下了几个小男孩和一头正在游游荡荡的小毛驴。 来自教父部分
  • We often took a walk along the meandering river after supper. 晚饭后我们常沿着那条弯弯曲曲的小河散步。
14 steer 5u5w3     
  • If you push the car, I'll steer it.如果你来推车,我就来驾车。
  • It's no use trying to steer the boy into a course of action that suits you.想说服这孩子按你的方式行事是徒劳的。
15 mechanisms d0db71d70348ef1c49f05f59097917b8     
n.机械( mechanism的名词复数 );机械装置;[生物学] 机制;机械作用
  • The research will provide direct insight into molecular mechanisms. 这项研究将使人能够直接地了解分子的机理。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • He explained how the two mechanisms worked. 他解释这两台机械装置是如何工作的。 来自《简明英汉词典》
16 ongoing 6RvzT     
  • The problem is ongoing.这个问题尚未解决。
  • The issues raised in the report relate directly to Age Concern's ongoing work in this area.报告中提出的问题与“关心老人”组织在这方面正在做的工作有直接的关系。
17 marine 77Izo     
  • Marine creatures are those which live in the sea. 海洋生物是生存在海里的生物。
  • When the war broke out,he volunteered for the Marine Corps.战争爆发时,他自愿参加了海军陆战队。
18 ecosystem Wq4xz     
  • This destroyed the ecosystem of the island.这样破坏了岛上的生态系统。
  • We all have an interest in maintaining the integrity of the ecosystem.维持生态系统的完整是我们共同的利益。
19 extinction sPwzP     
  • The plant is now in danger of extinction.这种植物现在有绝种的危险。
  • The island's way of life is doomed to extinction.这个岛上的生活方式注定要消失。
20 walruses 617292179d7a1988bfff06ba7b4f606b     
n.海象( walrus的名词复数 )
  • Walruses have enormous appetites and hunt for food almost constantly. 海象食欲极大,几乎一直在猎取食物。 来自互联网
  • Two Atlantic walruses snuggle on an ice floe near Igloolik, Nunavut, Canada. 加拿大努勒维特伊格卢利克附近,两头大西洋海象在浮冰上相互偎依。 来自互联网