All About Arctic Climatology and Meteorology

The Arctic is often referred to as the Earth’s icebox, helping cool the globe’s ocean currents and shaping the jet stream. Similarly, warming in the Arctic influences conditions elsewhere on the planet. This means what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. NSIDC’s educational Web site, All About Arctic Climatology and Meteorology, helps explain how the region plays a role in weather and climate across the Northern Hemisphere.

Ripples from the Arctic

Photograph of the Aurora Borealis This aurora appeared over the city of Iqaluit in Canada's Nunavut Territory. High-altitude oxygen, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) up, produces rare, all-red auroras, while lower-altitude oxygen, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) up, is the source of the most common auroral color, a bright yellow-green. Blue light comes from ionized nitrogen molecules. The nitrogens also create purplish-red and red colors in the aurora.
Credit: Flickr/ascappatura

In the Arctic, the usual meteorological conditions factor into the region’s weather: wind, humidity, temperature, clouds, precipitation, air pressure, and more. But the Arctic’s unique geography and high latitude also foster longer-term weather patterns, which recur regularly, even yearly. All About Climatology and Meteorology describes and illustrates these patterns, including cyclones and polar lows. One major pattern that scientists are always tracking is the Arctic Oscillation. Different phases of this oscillation carry consequences across the Northern Hemisphere, either causing warm and dry winters or blasting unusually cold and wet weather across Europe, China, and parts of the United States.

Readers can also learn about interesting and unique local phenomena caused by the Arctic’s icy surfaces and special atmospheric conditions, including ice blink, fog bows, and of course, the famous Aurora Borealis. Early polar navigators sometimes relied on these optical illusions to determine whether open water or sea ice lay ahead. At other times these illusions deceived explorers into turning back, sailing away from mirages that made open water look like towering mountains.

New updates to a popular site

Illustration showing phases of the Arctic Oscillation The left side of this illustration shows effects of the positive phase of the Arctic Oscillation, while the right side shows the effects of the negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation. Both phases influence weather patterns further south in Europe, China, and the United States. Credit: J. Wallace, University of Washington

All About Arctic Climatology and Meteorology is one of NSIDC’s most popular sites, consistently ranking among our top ten pages. The content was originally derived from a CD released in 2000, the Primer for Newcomers to the North, part of the Environmental Working Group’s Arctic Atlases. NSIDC recently updated the site with new information, additional photographs and images, and sections about climate change, exploration, and Arctic peoples.

To read more, visit the updated and expanded All About Arctic Climatology and Meteorology site. Learn how the Arctic keeps its cool, and how changes in the Arctic produce far-reaching effects around the globe. Read about how the Arctic was discovered and explored, how people now survive life in the Arctic, and how scientists conduct research in such an icy and inhospitable region. In addition, the site also includes a gallery of new and historic photographs of the Arctic.

Visit All About Arctic Climatology and Meteorology in About the Cryosphere, or go to the Web site directly at /cryosphere/arctic-meteorology/index.html.