It is still being argued whether climate change plays a role in the intense cold, snow, and ice that devastated Texas. The natural disaster cut off the power, burst pipes, and contaminated the supply of water for millions of Texans.

It is now being studied if the Arctic warming causing the jet stream to meander further south could also cause the southern United States to experience more persistent heatwaves in the future. Still, scientists are debating the same climate connection.

Intense Colds to Extreme Heats

New Yorkers Revel During Second Snow Storm Of The Week For The City
(Photo : Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Whether or not arctic warming can lead to prolonged heatwaves is based on the study published on January 2021 in the Geophysical Research Letters. It addresses the inadequately studied issue of whether increased Arctic warming or "Arctic amplification" at lower latitudes will lead to longer-lasting hot weather spells.

The researchers identified a link between slower-moving summer weather patterns and a smaller temperature difference between the equator and the Arctic caused by rapid warming, using a new approach to tracking weather systems to see how quickly they move.

Related Article: Arctic Blast Hits Central US; One Dead, 2 Million Households Without Power

Possible Long-Term Effects

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If this trend continues, heatwaves could become significantly more persistent over the next 70 years or so, especially in regions like the southern U.S. Given that future heatwaves are also expected to be hotter, the study points to a possible double atmospheric whammy that could strain societies' ability to cope: hotter weather that sticks around longer.

Although sustained heat waves are the reverse of what the southern U.S. is facing this week, the processes involved could be comparable, and the threats to the power grid and human well-being could be just as severe.

More than twice as rapidly as the rest of the planet, the Arctic is warming, partially due to feedback loops created by melting ice and snow, revealing darker oceans and land surfaces that consume more solar energy and increase even more melting.

The temperature differential between the Arctic and mid-latitude regions like the continental U.S. is narrowed by this Arctic amplification effect.

The disparity in temperature is what drives the jet stream, a fast-flowing air channel that pushes weather systems through the Northern Hemisphere snaking eastward. Francis' groundbreaking study shows that Arctic warming could also be forcing the jet stream to become weaker and more wavy.

Murky Connection

If the link between Arctic warming and cold air bursts is murky, scientists know far less about whether summer weather conditions like heat waves would be influenced by a wavier jet stream. But this is a subject that needs attention, particularly because in the future, heat waves are expected to become more serious due primarily to the warming environment. In contrast, due to climate change, cold events are anticipated to become less intense.

The reports contain some major caveats. Although the authors discovered a correlation between the warming Arctic and slower summer weather, their findings do not indicate that the former triggers the latter, like most research on Arctic amplification and cold air outbreaks in winter. To show any causal ties to Arctic warming and the jet stream, future studies will be needed.

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