How changes in the Arctic shape global weather patterns

10/26/2023 – Weather instabilities in the Arctic and changes in air temperature in distant regions such as California and Southwest China are linked, an international team of researchers reveals. Their study has been published in Nature Communications. The scientists also demonstrate that increased day-to-day irregularities in Arctic sea ice cover are caused by the Arctic’s rapid sea ice decline.
How changes in the Arctic shape global weather patterns
Photo by Christian Pfeifer on Unsplash

The researchers discovered notable long-distance linkages of weather events, called teleconnections, between the Arctic and Southwest China as well es between the Arctic and California. Both teleconnections are characterized by wind anomalies, indicating that changes in air temperature in remote regions can influence Arctic sea ice. According to the analysis, the evolution of air temperature in Southwest China and in California can influence the daily weather variability of Arctic sea ice. Conversely, changes in Arctic sea ice can also impact temperature fluctuations in California, albeit to a lesser extent. 

The researchers from Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, Beijing Normal University, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and University of Alaska Fairbanks verified the existence of these teleconnections by constructing a multivariate climate network framework. Their analysis method combines the directions and distribution patterns of teleconnections enabling them to evaluate their intensity and to identify sensitive regions using global daily surface air temperature data from the past 40 years. Weather variability linked to the day-to-day changes in the ice cover has increased within a substantial region of the Arctic, the research shows. The scientists also observed significant trends that indicate an enhanced instability of the sea ice cover during the melt season under global warming. 

“In this study, we've integrated two cutting-edge mathematical techniques to delve deep into the intricate network of weather interactions. These methods have enabled us to uncover patterns and correlations that might have been otherwise elusive, and they underscore the potential of modern computational tools in climate research”, says co-author Jingfang Fan from PIK and Beijing Normal University. 

“This research is a clarion call to the global community. Understanding the mechanisms by which Arctic changes affect weather across the world is not just academic—it's crucial for future planning, whether it's in agriculture, urban development, or disaster preparedness”, co-author Jürgen Kurths from PIK adds. 

In a second study, recently published in the scientific journal CHAOS, researchers from Potsdam and Beijing applied the same method, using climate network analysis to uncover patterns in climate events driven mainly by atmospheric Rossby waves, large-scale airstreams circling the globe. They identified areas significantly affected by these interconnected events within regions like southeastern Australia and South Africa. They also discovered that these teleconnections are becoming stronger over time, the extent and intensity of their impact having increased more prominently in the Southern Hemisphere during the past 37 years. Both studies have a strong potential for substantially improved forecasts of extreme climate events.


 Jun Meng, Jingfang Fan, Uma S. Bhatt & Jürgen Kurths (2023): Arctic weather variability and connectivity. Nature Communications [DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-42351-x]

Link to the article in Nature Communications: