It’s known as the Great Arctic Cyclone, and when it roared out of Siberia last August, storm watchers knew it was unusual. Hurricane-like storms are very common in the Arctic, but the most powerful of them (which are still far less powerful than tropical hurricanes) tend to come in winter. It wasn’t clear at the time, however, whether the August storm was truly unprecedented.
Now it is. A study published in Geophysical Research Letters looks at no fewer than 19,625 Arctic storms and concludes that in terms of size, duration and several other of what the authors call “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.
Although it came during a season when Arctic sea ice was plunging toward its lowest levels on record, the authors couldn’t establish that the unusually large areas of open ocean contributed to the storm’s intensity.
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.
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