It’s known as the Great Arctic Cyclone, and when it roared out of Siberia last August, storm watchers knew it was unusual, because the most powerful of these hurricane-like tend to come in winter, not August, reports Michael Lemonick at Climate Central. This, however, was unprecendented, says a study published in Geophysical Research Letters. Reviewing about 20,000 Arctic storms, study authors concluded that in terms of size, duration and several other “key cyclone properties,” the Great Cyclone was the most extreme summer storm, and the 13th most powerful storm — summer or winter — since modern satellite observations began in 1979. On the flip side, they do argue that the storm contributed significantly to the breakup of the ice, and ultimately, to the record-low minimum extent of sea ice covering the Arctic. Was climate change more broadly, if not the loss of sea ice in particular, a factor in the storm’s surprising intensity? The evidence for that may be more than circumstantial. Arctic experts say the region has entered a “new normal” in terms of snow and ice cover, and perhaps of weather patterns as well.
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Published: December 27th, 2012