News / Science & Technology

Is Shrinking Arctic Ice to Blame For Britain's Wet Summers?

Walking across London Bridge on a rainy, wet day in June 2011
Walking across London Bridge on a rainy, wet day in June 2011
Rick Pantaleo
If you lived in or visited Great Britain and northwest Europe during the summers of 2007 through 2012 you probably remember how rainy they were. 
 
Research just published by the science journal, “Environmental Research Letters” has added a new theory as a cause for the extraordinary soggy summers.  The study found that a loss of Arctic sea ice is pushing the jet stream further south than normal, which in turn is causing an increase in summer rainfall throughout northwest Europe.
 
Using a computer model, Dr. James Screen from the University of Exeter said that he was able to examine just how European summer climate is impacted by the dramatic retreat of sea ice in the Arctic. Plugging in a variable that included the Arctic ice loss, Screen said that the predicted pattern of rainfall produced by his model was very close to the rainfall pattern of recent northwest European summers.
 
"The results of the computer model suggest that melting Arctic sea ice causes a change in the position of the jet stream and this could help to explain the recent wet summers we have seen,” said Screen.  "The study suggests that loss of sea ice not only has an effect on the environment and wildlife of the Arctic region but has far reaching consequences for people living in Europe and beyond."
 
This shows the average location of the jet stream during wet summer months over northwest Europe.This shows the average location of the jet stream during wet summer months over northwest Europe.
x
This shows the average location of the jet stream during wet summer months over northwest Europe.
This shows the average location of the jet stream during wet summer months over northwest Europe.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), jet streams are narrow bands of strong wind, blowing usually 30 meters a second or more, located in the higher levels of the atmosphere.  The northern and southern hemispheres have two powerful jet streams each. In the northern hemisphere it’s the polar jet stream which usually sits at roughly 60°N latitude and the subtropical jet stream that is at roughly at 30°N latitude.  These jet streams are caused by the difference in temperature between tropical air masses and polar air masses and are responsible for guiding weather systems and their rain.  The jet streams do vary in size and shape, usually with the change of seasons.
 
The jet stream impacts weather patterns for Britain and northwest Europe because in summer, it usually lies between Scotland and Iceland, causing the weather systems to pass north of Britain. However, when the jet stream pushes further south in the summer, it brings along with it an incredible amount of wet weather to Britain and northwest Europe.
 
While Screen’s weather model has suggested an increase in summer rainfall for northwest Europe, it also has predicted that the Mediterranean regions will receive less rain.
 
These maps compare the Arctic ice minimum extents from 2012 (top) and 1984 (bottom). In 1984 the minimum Arctic sea ice extent was 6.70 million square kilometers. The minimum ice extent in 2012 was nearly half of that at 3.41 million square kilometers.These maps compare the Arctic ice minimum extents from 2012 (top) and 1984 (bottom). In 1984 the minimum Arctic sea ice extent was 6.70 million square kilometers. The minimum ice extent in 2012 was nearly half of that at 3.41 million square kilometers.
x
These maps compare the Arctic ice minimum extents from 2012 (top) and 1984 (bottom). In 1984 the minimum Arctic sea ice extent was 6.70 million square kilometers. The minimum ice extent in 2012 was nearly half of that at 3.41 million square kilometers.
These maps compare the Arctic ice minimum extents from 2012 (top) and 1984 (bottom). In 1984 the minimum Arctic sea ice extent was 6.70 million square kilometers. The minimum ice extent in 2012 was nearly half of that at 3.41 million square kilometers.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado the Arctic summer Arctic sea ice extent has been shrinking over the last ten years, meaning there has been more of a seasonal melt of Arctic sea ice.  There were record amounts of sea ice melt in the summers of 2007, 2011 and 2012, coincidently when Britain had very rainy summer weather.
 
There are, of course, a number of other factors along with the impact of melting Arctic sea ice that could also explain the recent run of wet summers.
 
Scientists have also been predicting a possible decade long cycle of wet summers in that part of the world due to a major warming in the North Atlantic Ocean in the 1990’s that has also had an effect on the jet stream.
 
To develop his findings, Screen compared the weather patterns that took place during these periods of low seasonal sea ice with the weather patterns that occurred during high seasonal sea ice conditions, such as those in the mid to late 1970’s. 
 
Since his study didn’t use any estimates of how much sea ice there will be in the future, Screen said it could not predict future weather. The results, he says, do suggest however that if sea ice loss continues as it has over recent decades, the risk of wet summers may increase.
 
While earlier this year many weather prognosticators were predicting that the summer of 2013 would another wet and soggy one for the UK, it turned out that overall the summer was drier than the long-term average. Except for parts of north-west England and the Midlands area in central England, all areas had a drier than average summer. In fact, according to the Met Office, the UK's National Weather Service it was the driest summer for the UK since 2003 and for England the driest since 1996.
 
The NSIDC also recently reported that because of a cool and stormy summer, the seasonal Arctic sea ice melt in 2013 was less than when it set a record in 2012.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid