Climate change a factor in UK’s unusual weather – Met Office

By John Parnell

Climate change is just one of the factors behind recent unusual weather patterns in the UK.

That was the conclusion from a Met Office summit of climate scientists convened on Tuesday to investigate the underlying causes of a series of washout summers and colder than average winters.

Weather patterns in northern Europe, the UK and the North East of the US are affected by the position of the jet stream.

When the jet stream moves further south, it draws more rainfall in and around the UK making the Mediterranean drier.

The UK has had six wetter than usual summers in the past seven years. A series of unusual seasons form 2010 to 2013 forced the Met Office to look deeper into the issue.

It concluded that climate change could be “loading the dice” in favour of these conditions.

A recent run of cold winters and soggy summers could be at least partially the result of climate change (Source: Flickr/Dougbelshaw)

The complex combination of a newly discovered cycle of ocean temperatures, record melting of Arctic sea ice and climate change has been added to other determining factors such as El Nino, the 11-year solar irradiation cycle and patterns of air currents high in the atmosphere are all contributing.

Professor Stephen Belcher, head of the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, chaired the meeting and was keen to stress that climate change is just one of the factors at play.

“It would be wrong to say it is only climate change that is responsible, we don’t know. What we have now is a clear research path. We need to know more about the way the atmosphere and the oceans exchange heat.”

The warmer Arctic climate is also playing a role and is thought to be influential in recent colder than normal winters.

“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,” said Dr James Screen, from the University of Exeter.

“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.”

The Arctic is more sensitive to climate change with temperature rises double the global average.

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