A shift in the Jet Stream.
Following the recent prolonged bad weather in Britain, there has been growing anxiety among the scientists tracking the jet stream.
The jet stream is what determines the weather patterns in Northern Europe and North America, and recent studies show that this year it has taken a much longer winding course, which has meant that we have been plagued with stormy weather for a prolonged time.
The jet stream can travel at up to 200 mph and controls weather all year round, which means that it also controls our summer weather.
Experts now believe that it has become stuck in a position forcing warm moisture-filled air from the Atlantic on to Britain for weeks or even months at a time. The result has been storms riddling the UK and temperatures plummeting in the US.
Should this research be correct, this would mean that we can expect this to happen more and more frequently, making the weather much more predictable than in recent years, be it good or bad. Prof Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University in New Jersey told the American Association for the Advancement of Science: “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, we can expect more of the same, and we can expect it to happen more frequently.”
The jet stream moves from the west to the east around the northern hemisphere, and it is the temperatures difference between the colder Arctic air, and warmer air that drives it forward.
So what has caused it to start slowing down? Well, it is down to a decrease in difference between those temperatures which slows the jet stream and can take it off course. The temperature difference is what acts as fuel for the jet stream, so when the temperatures have greater variation it will move faster, and our weather will change more frequently.
The recent pattern of the jet stream has meant that it’s been stuck in a wave causing the storms we are still experiencing, but there is nothing to say that next year won’t see a persistent dry pattern. In layman’s terms whatever weather we do get will last longer, be it wet or dry.
Warming in the Arctic could be an answer to this recent shift. “Our data to look at this effect is very short and so it is hard to get a very clear signal, but as we have more data I do think we will start to see the influence of climate change.”
The Arctic has seen the greatest rise in temperature than seen anywhere else in the world, records show an increase of 4 degrees in the past 30 years. But research linking climate change with the effects on the jet stream is still in its infancy, and may take some time to conclude.
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