Dec 5, 2016

An Unusually Warm Arctic Year: Sign of Future Climate Turmoil?

Fen Montaigne
Yale Environment 360

Atmospheric scientist Jennifer Francis has for five years propounded a widely discussed theory about the rapidly warming Arctic and global weather: Rising temperatures in the Arctic, closely intertwined with the loss of sea ice, are changing the shape of the jet stream and altering the weather of the Northern Hemisphere. 


Some climate scientists and meteorologists have embraced her theory, while others have adopted a wait-and-see attitude. 

But this year’s freakishly warm Arctic weather is lending credence to her hypothesis that a lessening of the temperature difference between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes is causing the jet stream to wobble, allowing warm air to flood into the north polar regions and sending frigid air southward into parts of Asia. More profound changes are in store as the Arctic continues to warm, says Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University.

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Francis discusses the perilous state of Arctic sea ice, explains why large portions of the Arctic have experienced temperatures more typical of New York City, and warns that we ignore the climate upheaval in the Arctic at our own peril. “The speed of the change is what is very disturbing to me,” says Francis, “because it's such an indicator of what's happening to the planet as a whole.”