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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More