Monday, February 17, 2014

UK weather: changing jet stream linked to flooding crisis

Tom Revell in Blue and Green Tomorrow: The system of winds that is responsible for bringing weather to Northern Europe and North America may be changing, new research has found. A study suggests that the jet stream, a high-speed air current that carries weather around the globe, is taking a longer, more meandering route than usual. This means that weather patterns will remain the same in some areas for longer periods.

If accurate, these findings could explain the recent stormy spell that has brought devastating flooding to many parts of the UK. “This does seem to suggest that weather patterns are changing and people are noticing that the weather in their area is not what it used to be”, said Prof Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University in the US. “We can expect more of the same and we can expect it to happen more frequently.”

It has been suggested that the jet stream has been affected by the warming of the Arctic region, caused by manmade climate change. Francis said that it was too early to definitively confirm the link, but added, “As we have more data I do think we will start to see the influence of climate change.”

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, defence secretary Philip Hammond said climate change was “clearly a factor” in the prolonged stormy period. Labour leader Ed Miliband has also partly blamed a lack of government spending in the fight against climate change for the crisis.

“What we’ve learnt from what’s happened over the last few weeks, tragically, is that the costs of not acting on climate change in terms of the billions of pounds that are lost in terms of businesses and families as well as the human costs are greater than the costs of acting”, he said, also speaking on Sunday....

Stormy skies over Poole Harbour in September 2013, shot by Ian Kirk, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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