Global warming ‘will give Britain longer, colder winters’ as melting sea ice plays havoc with weather patterns
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:49 PM on 25th December 2010
Britain will be hit by longer and colder winters in coming years because of global warming, scientists have said.
Melting Arctic Sea ice has changed wind patterns in the northern hemisphere – bringing blasts of colder air across the UK.
Scientists believe the changes could be why we have been experiencing such a bitterly cold December.
Arctic conditions: A bus tries to make its way through Tunbridge Wells, Kent, as bad weather sweeps across the country.
In future we are three times as likely to be hit by bitterly cold winter months because of the changing climate.
Vladimir Petoukhov, who conducted the study at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact in Germany, said the disappearing sea ice will have an unpredictable impact on the climate.
‘This is not what one would expect. Whoever thinks that the shrinking of some far away sea-ice won’t bother him could be wrong,’ he said.
‘There are complex interconnections in the climate system, and in the Barents-Kara Sea we have discovered a powerful feedback mechanism.
‘Our results imply that several recent severe winters do not conflict with the global warming picture but rather supplement it.’
Rising temperatures in the Arctic – increasing at two to three times the global average – have peeled back the region’s floating ice cover by 20 percent over the last three decades.
As the Arctic ice cap has melted the heat from the relatively-warm seawater escapes into the colder atmosphere above, creating an area of high pressure.
That creates clockwise winds that sweep south over the UK and northern Europe.
The study was completed last year – before Britain was hit by a freezing winter and heavy snowfall.
Above: A car drives carefully in a blizzard in North Tyneside, as the current cold spell continues to grip the country. Scientists say we are three times as likely to have cold winters in the future.
Scientists said it was too early to say if the freezing conditions this year and last year were caused by changes in the Arctic.
But as the ice continues to melt, Britain will begin to have warmer than average winters – but not for another half a century.
Stefan Rahmstorf, professor of physics of the ocean at the Potsdam Institute, said: ‘If you look ahead 40 or 50 years, these cold winters will be getting warmer because, even though you are getting an inflow of cold polar air, that air mass is getting warmer because of the greenhouse effect.
‘So it’s a transient phenomenon. In the long run, global warming wins out.’
The paper was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research last month.