Tuesday 25th October 2016                 Change text size:

Met Office scientists link unusual British weather with Arctic warming

Garry Knight via flickr

Scientists at the Met Office have suggested that the primary cause of unusual British weather in the last two years is warming in the Atlantic and the Arctic.

They came to the conclusion at a meeting in Exeter on Tuesday, during which they looked at a number of recent incidences of extreme weather in the UK.

Professor Stephen Belcher, head of the Met Office Hadley Centre, said, “Ultimately what we’ve seen in each of these seasons is shifts in the position of the jet stream which impact our weather in certain ways at different times of year.

“The key question is what is causing the jet stream to shift in this way? There is some research to say some parts of the natural system load the dice to influence certain states of the jet stream, but this loading may be further amplified by climate change.”

According to the scientists, wet summers can be caused by changes in the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), the ocean current that influences the jet stream and its direction by a pattern of cold and warm water. This phenomenon occurred previously in the 1960s.

However, the cold winters and spring were likely caused by other, more complex factors, according to the scientists. The warming of the Arctic is likely to be one of them.

Dr James Screen, from the University of Exeter, said, “There has been a lot of talk about declining Arctic sea ice playing a role in our weather patterns, but really that’s just one aspect of changes in the Arctic climate – which has seen rapid warming compared to other parts of the world.

Those changes mean there is less of a difference in temperature between the Arctic and tropics, which could impact the position of the jet stream.”

Further reading:

Met Office scientists to examine cause of UK extreme weather

Investing for a rainy day of biblical proportions

Environment Agency: climate change means we need to adapt to extreme weather

Extreme rainfall is increasing in UK

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