The warming Arctic Ocean is linked to a two-to four-fold increase in the frequency of severe winter storms in the eastern US, according to a new study by American scientists.
The massive storms regularly get dubbed evocative names such as "Snowzilla" or "Snowcopalypse" when they hit populated regions such as New York, stirring debate over the role of climate change.
The new study, published Wednesday in Nature Communications, noted human-induced global warming was "widely expected to increase certain weather extremes, including more intense and frequent heat waves and droughts".
"Surprisingly, however, over the past two or three decades, the increase in extreme weather has included more (not fewer) severe cold-air outbreaks and heavy snowfalls observed both in North America and Eurasia," the paper said.
The researchers examined US weather data from 1950 to 2016, combining an index of winter season weather over the mid-latitudes with circulation anomalies in the Arctic. Storms increased in the eastern US while they decreased in the west.