Boston is suffering through what could end up being the hottest summer ever, and it could be a sign of things to come, according to new research.
Researchers say summer weather has become more persistent, whether it’s heavy rain or heat waves in North America, Europe, and parts of Asia. Their work on “summer weather stalling” suggests it is linked to the disproportionate warming of the Arctic due to the greenhouse effect.
Evidence is growing, researchers said, that because of that warming natural atmospheric circulation patterns are being distorted — and that’s affecting local and regional weather patterns. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.
“Simple warming of the air due to global warming is already making summers hotter globally — also in Boston. On top of that, our study shows that there is a risk that weather in the mid-latitudes will get more persistent, prolonging heat waves. So that also likely holds for Boston,” Dim Coumou of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, lead author of the paper, said in an e-mail.
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute, said giant airstreams called planetary waves circle the planet, and “global warming is probably distorting” their patterns.
“When they get trapped ... they slow down so the weather in a given region gets stuck. Rains can grow into floods, sunny days into heat waves, and tinder-dry conditions into wildfires,” he said in a statement from the institute.
Chris Rapley, professor of climate science at University College London, told The Guardian, “What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. By upsetting the energy balance of the planet we are changing the temperature gradient between the equator and the pole. This in turn sets in motion major reorganisations of the flow patterns of the atmosphere and ocean. The consequences are emerging and they are disruptive, and likely to become even more profoundly so. We are on a journey and the destination doesn’t look good.”
As of Sunday morning, Boston was having the hottest summer on record, in terms of average mean temperature, meteorologist Dave Epstein reports. Since June 1, there have been 15 days with temperatures of 90 or more. Epstein also noted that it’s been extremely humid, creating sometimes intense discomfort.
Warming of the Arctic has also been eyed as a factor in extreme winter weather in the eastern United States. Jennifer Francis, a research professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University, who has looked at that connection, said in an e-mail the new research shared the “same basic idea — rapid Arctic warming affecting the jet stream.”