Researchers might have an explanation for why winters have gotten so horrendous, at least in areas such as the UK and the US.
Winter in the city is awful – there, I’ve said it. I mean, it’s one thing to enjoy winter in the mountains or in some remote forest with beautiful, fluffy white snow. You can just get a mug of hot cocoa or mulled wine and let it all go by. But when you’re in a city, it’s nothing like that. Everyone’s cold, everyone’s late, the traffic is awful, the snow is melting and dirty or it’s just raining. In recent years, that seems to be getting even worse, doesn’t it?
As humans, we don’t exactly have an accurate recollection of how seasons are like. We may remember an exceptionally cold or warm winter, but year after year, this kind of memories starts to get fuzzy because let’s face it – who pays that much attention to the weather anyway? Well, University of Sheffield researchers sure do. They found that the recent harsh winters were caused by the positioning of jet streams, the narrow bands of very strong winds encircling the globe several miles above ground.
“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, one of the lead researchers involved with the study, and a professor of geography at Sheffield, told Business Insider.
“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.”
When the jet streams are wavy, the weather is more severe and the winter is harsher. Not only that, but the warming Arctic, which affects global circulation, also plays a part. The team believes that understanding these interactions could not only explain why we’re seeing bad winter weather, but also help perfect our forecasts so authorities can be better prepared.
“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,” Hanna said.
“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.”
Journal Reference: Nonlinear response of mid-latitude weather to the changing Arctic.
Andrei's background is in geophysics, and he's been fascinated by it ever since he was a child. Feeling that there is a gap between scientists and the general audience, he started ZME Science -- and the results are what you see today.