COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A new analysis of polar weather data has shown that 1,900 cyclones churned across the top of the world from 2000 to 2010, or 40 percent more Arctic storms than previously thought.
The finding using data previously synthesized at the Ohio Supercomputer Center could be significant to anyone who lives north of 55 degrees of latitude, an area that includes Alaska, northern Canada, Scandinavia and Russia.
The cyclones leave behind warm water and air, melting sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.
Ohio State University geography professor David Bromwich says the finding is also important to polar researchers seeking to understand current weather patterns and what they say about future climate change.
Bromwich, senior research scientist at OSU's Byrd Polar Research Center, amassed the weather database and consulted on the cyclone study.
"We can't yet tell if the number of cyclones is increasing or decreasing, because that would take a multi-decade view," he said in a release. "We do know that, since 2000, there have been a lot of rapid changes in the Arctic — Greenland ice melting, tundra thawing — so we can say that we're capturing a good view of what's happening in the Arctic during the current time of rapid changes."
The study was presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in December. It was co-authored by Natalia Tilinina and Sergey Gulev of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Moscow State University.
"We now know there were more cyclones than previously thought, simply because we've gotten better at detecting them," Bromwich said. He noted it may seem difficult to miss a cyclone, but many are small in size or short in duration.
Cyclones are defined as zones of low atmospheric pressure that have wind circulating around them. They can form over land or water. They also go by different names.
In Ohio, they're generally called winter storms. When they form over tropical waters, they're called hurricanes or typhoons.