A groundbreaking new study on climate change indicates that you may be wrong about the effect you think it has on our planet.
Scientists have been pounding the drum on global warming for decades now, warning of famines, violent storms, extreme heat, flooding, extinctions and a host of other things. But now scientists are also saying it’s to blame for extreme winters in the United States and United Kingdom.
An indirect effect of climate change is that warming in the Arctic could be influencing the jet stream, resulting in severe cold weather that makes its way down to more temperate areas, and may have been responsible for record snow in New York in the winter of 2014/15 and the UK’s winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11, according to a statement from the University of Sheffield.
Jet stream winds can be “wavy” or “not so wavy,” and scientists have always seen a fluctuation, but during the waring of the Arctic in the last couple of decades, climate change appears to have amplified these fluctuations.
This is an important discovery because it could allow scientists to better predict how climate change affects the jet stream, and therefore make better long-term predictions of winter weather in some parts of the world.
“Scientists agree for first time that climate change may be intensifying the effects of the jet stream, causing extreme cold weather in the UK and US. Study could improve long-term forecasting of winter weather in most populous parts of the world,” the University of Sheffield statement reads. “More accurate forecasting could help communities, businesses and economies prepare for severe weather and make life and cost-saving decisions. Scientists have agreed for the first time that recent severe cold winter weather in the UK and US may have been influenced by climate change in the Arctic, according to a new study.”
Previously, there were two schools of thought on the issue: one believed that the natural variability of the jet stream’s position caused severe cold weather, with the other camp suggesting that warming in the Arctic might be causing it.
“We’ve always had years with wavy and not so wavy jet stream winds, but in the last one to two decades the warming Arctic could well have been amplifying the effects of the wavy patterns,” Professor Edward Hanna said. He added: “This may have contributed to some recent extreme cold winter spells along the eastern seaboard of the United States, in eastern Asia, and at times over the UK (e.g. 2009/10 and 2010/11).
“Improving our ability to predict how climate change is affecting the jet stream will help to improve our long-term prediction of winter weather in some of the most highly populated regions of the world.
“This would be hugely beneficial for communities, businesses, and entire economies in the northern hemisphere. The public could better prepare for severe winter weather and have access to extra crucial information that could help make live-saving and cost-saving decisions.”