Spring chill blamed on warmer Arctic

As Norway woke up to yet another chilly, even frosty, morning on Monday, experts were linking this year’s unusually cold spring weather to melting ice in the Arctic. They blame another rise in Arctic temperatures last year, and ice that’s melting at a record pace in places like Svalbard.

The sub-freezing weather that continued to grip wide areas of Norway early Monday morning might prompt many to dismiss the threat of global warming that’s been debated for years. State meteorologists including Rasmus E Benestad of the state Meteorologic Institute in Oslo, however, claim the two are instead related, and have allowed a massive high-pressure system to continue to hover over Norway that’s prevented warmer Atlantic winds from arriving and ushering in spring.

Sun’s warmth drowns in newly open seas
Newspaper Aftenposten reported over the weekend that climate researchers have been tracking the consequences of the rapid warming of the Arctic, where average temperatures on Norway’s archipelago of Svalbard, for example, rose around two full degrees last year alone. “Many believe they have found an explanation,” Benestad told Aftenposten.

Benestad noted that ice and snow on the Arctic seas off Norway have traditionally reflected warmth from the sun and sent it south. The disappearance of ice in many areas means the warmth from the sun that’s risen high in the northern skies in recent weeks is now simply being absorbed by dark open seas.

At the same time, Benestad said, the warmer seas and temperatures in the Arctic and in the atmosphere are disrupting jet streams over the top of the globe and thus the winds. They’ve calmed significantly in recent weeks, with a resulting strong high-pressure system over much of Norway blocking warmer winds from the south.

“New research from the US shows that changes in the sea ice influence the winds,” Benestad told Aftenposten. That’s left residents of Norway, and also many areas in North America and other northern climes, shivering.

Few hints of green yet
In Oslo, there are few if any buds on the trees, unusual for late April, nor have any of the traditional spring flowers like crocus started popping up. There’s still lots of snow in the hills around the capital and all over southern Norway, while Northern Norway seems stuck in the clutches of winter.

Weekend temperatures rose during the day, heading into double digits in some areas, but they sunk during the night to well below the freezing point in many areas. That caused some problems for morning commuters as snow and ice that melted Sunday afternoon froze again into slick ice on many roads around the country. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) was warning of traffic hazards in several areas.

Flood warnings are up in Finnmark and Troms counties in the far north, meanwhile, because of the enormous amounts of snow they’ve received combined with an eventual rise in temperatures. Officials in southern Norway were also worrying about flooding, as large blocks of ice broke loose and started moving down rivers in Hedmark and Oppland counties. They warned the ice, still too thick to melt away entirely, would form dams at curves in the rivers, and send rushing water fueled by snowmelt spilling over riverbanks and bridges.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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