Where the wind blows, it rains: Arctic warming and wacky jetstream ruins European summers

by Gareth on October 31, 2013

The dramatic loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic has prompted a lot of research interest in the way that this is affecting weather patterns around the northern hemisphere. The latest contribution is Influence of Arctic sea ice on European summer precipitation, by Dr James Screen of the University of Exeter [PhysOrg]. In this “video abstract”, he explains how reductions in Arctic sea ice affect the position of jetstream — the ribbon of winds winding around the planet that guides weather systems — bringing more summer storms to Western Europe, and a recent run of record-setting wet summers to the UK. But as he points out, the effects are planet-wide:

The impacts are not just over northwest Europe. Actually in the model, what we find is that whilst the sea ice loss increases rainfall over northwest Europe, we actually find drier conditions over Mediterranean Europe. Also the jet steam shifts over North America, which can have implications for the weather there too.

Dr Screen’s study underlines a point that I have been making for some time: rapid climate change is not something theoretical that will happen in the future — it’s happening now and we’re feeling the effects. Warming in the Arctic is driving sea ice loss, and the atmospheric consequences are changing the shape of the weather right round the northern half of the planet.

Also interesting, and also looking at jetstream patterns is Probability of US heat waves affected by a subseasonal planetary wave pattern, in which the authors find that US heatwaves might be predictable 15-20 days earlier than at present by monitoring a particular jetstream wave pattern. [Science Daily]

It’s worth noting that an especially vigorous jetstream directed and helped to intensify the recent huge European storm that hammered the UK, Germany and Denmark, killing 16 people and causing huge amounts of damage. Christopher Burt at WeatherUnderground provides a handy overview of the storm that has four names — St Jude, Christian, Simone and Carmen. The storm centre moved 2,000 km in 26 hours, a remarkable pace of 77 kph.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

John Russell November 1, 2013 at 11:51 am

The Carbon Brief have just done a blog post on this subject: http://www.carbonbrief.org/5131.aspx

bennydale November 2, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Overblown and hysterical nonsense. Why do you bother ?

bill November 2, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Overblown and hysterical nonsense. Why do you bother ?

Thomas November 3, 2013 at 10:13 am

Yea bunnybale, why should we bother with that sort of stuff. Jet streams and all, probably just figmations of some wayward science jumbo mumbo types who want another round of research funding from YOUR taxes!

Macro November 3, 2013 at 12:05 pm

You do realise Thomas that the earth IS FLAT!! So all this stuff about jetstreams and stuff is just stuff and nonsense… Don’t forget the climate has changed before…. It’s all natural – nothing to do with me!

Thomas November 3, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Yea, I recon. If the Earth was flat, that jet stream would just blow of the cliff at the rim, problem solved. Also, we could just brush nuclear waste and all the other crap we don’t need anymore simply off the edge! Hey there is sooo much THEY don’t tell us. THEY just want BunnyDales’s tax money for solving non existing problems… ;-)

Bob Bingham November 3, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Of all the climate changes happening the loss of Arctic sea ice is the most immediate. This simple graph from piomas https://sites.google.com/site/arctischepinguin/home/piomas
indicates that we will not have much ice left in five years. Unlike rising temperatures and sea level rise which may take decades or centuries, the loss of Arctic ice has an immediate affect on the Northern weather. If this disrupts food production in this crowded part of the World we will have big problems in a much faster timescale than we thought possible.

CTG November 4, 2013 at 7:43 am

Sh. Don’t tell anyone that, we might have to do something about it.

noelfuller November 5, 2013 at 7:46 pm

You might be intrigued by a BBC story on Ocean living
Most of the western ideas on the subject are expensive and high tech so one wonders at their durability. However a bunch of 7000 Chinese, the Tanka, have been living on the water since 700AD. They fled local wars back then and were only permitted ashore half way through last century. They cultivate fish farms.

I was specially interested in a reference to the concrete used in ancient Roman harbours – vastly more durable than the familiar portland cement used today, and also relatively environmentally friendly.

The BBC story did not get to mention the recent floating houses in Holland that slide up poles as the water rises and I wonder if the author is aware at all of those people who are living on the water just about anywhere. They keep a low profile, there are regulations against them, so they have to keep on the move. They mind yachts, crew for yachties on their world cruises, dodging the hurricane seasons, can be found in the Bay of Islands, Whangarei and the Hauraki Gulf, where I spent some years getting to know some of them. I have friends who spend their lives on the sea one way or another.

Ocean living will be one way people will go as sea levels rise.

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