Long-term trends and impacts of polar cold airmass in boreal summer

Qian Liu, Guixing Chen, Toshiki Iwasaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The northern polar region possesses the most extensive cold airmass on Northern Hemisphere. The generation of this polar cold airmass and its outflow to lower latitudes play an important role in the climate system in terms of mass and heat exchanges. However, long-term changes in the polar cold airmass, especially in summer, and the climatic effects on mid-high latitudes are still unclear. Using an isentropic approach, we quantitatively show that the polar cold airmass amount has decreased rapidly since the 1980s, with a decade lagging behind the global warming. The equatorward flux of the cold airmass has also weakened, trapping the cold airmass in its source region. These profound changes in the cold airmass coincide with a period characterized by rapid surface warming and increasingly frequent heat waves in recent three decades over the mid-high latitude continents. Owing to regional differences in the cold airmass reduction, Europe and North America have experienced a surface warming faster than the Northern Hemisphere mean. Furthermore, such a long-term trend in the polar cold airmass can be attributed to Arctic sea ice loss and internal decadal variability of sea surface temperature in high-latitude oceans. Our results highlight that the isentropic analysis of cold airmass may serve a good detection of the climate change at polar region and mid-high latitudes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number084042
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Aug


  • climate change
  • cold airmass
  • heat wave
  • isentropic analysis
  • mid-high latitudes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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