Department of Atmospheric Sciences | University of Illinois
Atmospheric Sciences | RESEARCH

ArCTIC meteorology and climate

The Arctic is more than a cold deserted region at the fringes of our planet. It is the heat sink for the engine that drives our weather and climate. As such, it influences our weather by conditioning airmasses that plunge the middle latitudes during the cold outbreaks of winter, and it shapes the thermal contrasts that give birth to winter storms. Many consider the Arctic to be a sentinel of climate change and, more recently, the canary in the coal mine of greenhouse-driven climate warming. Over the past several decades, the strongest warming in the Northern Hemisphere has indeed occurred in the Arctic, and sea ice has retreated farther than ever before in the historical record. Glaciers are retreating throughout the Arctic, and permafrost is thawing.  Residents of the Arctic are experiencing shorter winters and longer summers, growing seasons are lengthening, and forest fires are becoming more widespread during drier summers. Are these ongoing trends really harbingers of changes that will be felt in middle latitudes?

The Department of Atmospheric Sciences is engaged in a variety of studies to unravel the nature of climate variability in the Arctic. Students have used models to address the reasons for changes in the Arctic Ocean and its sea ice cover, and the latest output from the major climate models of the world is being used to distinguish natural and anthropogenic changes in the Arctic.  The department participates actively in aircraft programs and satellite studies to gain a better understanding of the critical role played by clouds in Arctic climate.  Students have studied wintertime cold waves and the Arctic wind patterns to understand better the connection between the Arctic and middle latitudes. The Arctic offers scientific rewards and a fascinating research environment for those who expand their horizons northward. Are you willing to meet the exciting scientific challenges provided by a remote and unique part of our planet?

Want to learn more? See these faculty websites:

Larry Di Girolamo Greg McFarquhar John Walsh