Melting Arctic Sea Ice Impacts Summer Rain and Weather in Europe

First Posted: Oct 29, 2013 10:14 AM EDT

There may be a reason for the extraordinary run of wet summers between 2007 and 2012 in Britain and northwest Europe. It turns out that melting Arctic sea ice shifted the jet stream further south, resulting in increased rain that drenched these regions.

In order to learn more about how the dramatic retreat of the arctic sea ice might influence the European summer climate, the researchers created a model. This model examined the jet streams, which are currents of strong winds high in the atmosphere. These winds steer weather systems and their rain. Normally in summer, the jet stream lies between Scotland and Iceland with weather systems passing north of Britain.

The model, though, revealed that the Arctic sea ice might be influencing this jet stream. Arctic sea ice is currently declining at about half a million square kilometers per decade. This melting ice shifts the jet stream south, which brings unseasonable wet weather to Britain and northwest Europe. The model also suggested that Mediterranean regions may receive less rain during the summer.

"The results of the Arctic sea ice causes a change in the position of the jet stream and this could help to explain the recent wet summers we have seen," said James Screen, one of the researchers, in a news release. "The study suggests that loss of sea ice not only has an effect on the environment and wildlife of the Arctic region but has far reaching consequences for people living in Europe and beyond."

The findings reveal the importance of understanding how climate change has been and is affecting weather patterns. As conditions shift and change, various regions across the globe are either benefitting or suffering from the different weather.

Currently, the researchers plan to use estimates of future sea ice loss to make predictions of how further melting could influence summer rainfall. This could give scientists a picture of what might happen in Europe in the years to come.

The findings are published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Want to see the jet stream for yourself? Check out the video below, courtesy of YouTube.

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