UK researchers tie solar cycles to snowy European winters; Arctic, Antarctic sea ice remained well below average
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Global temperature data released this week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that March 2010 ended up as the warmest March on record.
The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature was 56.3 degrees, 1.39 degrees aboe the 20th century average. Warmer-than-normal conditions dominated the globe, especially in northern Africa, South Asia and Canada.
Cooler-than-normal regions included Mongolia and eastern Russia, northern and western Europe, Mexico, northern Australia, western Alaska and the southeastern United States.
The worldwide ocean surface temperature was the highest for any March on record — 1.01 degrees above the 20th century average of 60.7 degrees.
Separately, the global land surface temperature was 2.45 degrees above the 20th century average of 40.8 degrees, making the he fourth-warmest March on record for global land surface temperatures.
El Niño weakened in March, but it contributed significantly to the warmth in the tropical belt and the overall ocean temperature. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, El Niño is expected to continue its influence in the Northern Hemisphere at least through the spring.
For the year-to-date, the combined global land- and ocean-surface temperature of 55.3 was the fourth warmest for the January-March period at 1.19 degrees above the 20th century average.
According to the Beijing Climate Center, Tibet experienced its second warmest March since historical records began in 1951. Delhi, India also had its second warmest March since records began in 1901, according to the India Meteorological Department.
Arctic sea ice covered an average of 5.8 million square miles during March. This is 4.1 percent below the 1979-2000 average expanse, and the fifth-smallest March coverage since records began in 1979. Ice coverage traditionally reaches its maximum in March, and this was the 17th consecutive March with below average Arctic sea ice coverage. This year the Arctic sea ice reached its maximum extent on March 31, the latest date since satellite records began in 1979.
Antarctic sea ice expanse in March was 6.9 percent below the 1979-2000 average, resulting in the eighth smallest March ice coverage on record.
Despite the overall global warmth, parts of northern Europe experienced a snowy and cold winter, with Scotland reporting near-record snowfall. At one point, all of England and Scotland were completely blanketed with snow.
Results of a study released last week suggest a link between low solar activity and jet streams over the Atlantic, and could explain why, despite global warming trends, northwestern Europe may see more frequent cold winters ahead.
“This year’s winter in the UK has been the 14th coldest in the last 160 years and yet the global average temperature for the same period has been the 5th highest. We have discovered that this kind of anomaly is significantly more common when solar activity is low,” said Mike Lockwood, of the University of Reading.
The scientists arrived at their conclusion by comparing temperature data from England, which has reliable long-term historic records, with the long-term behavior of the Sun’s magnetic field, and to trends across the entire Northern Hemisphere.
The paper is being published now as the researchers have just had the opportunity to put this year’s data to the test and found that this year’s results fit well with the trends they have discovered.
The researchers suggest that the anomaly in Northern Europe’s winter temperatures could be related to a jet stream pattern that, over the past couple of winters, could have lost its way, for weeks at a time, in an ‘anticyclone’ before it reaches Europe.
The researchers found strong correlations between weak solar activity and the anomalous jet stream pattern. Decreased solar energy can change wind patterns, and as the westerlies fail, the UK is hit by cold air dropping from the northeast.
The researchers stressed the regional and seasonal nature of their research and explained that the trends don’t guarantee colder winters, but do suggest colder winters will become more frequent.
“If we look at the last period of very low solar activity at the end of the seventeenth century, we find the coldest winter on record in 1684. But the very next year, when solar activity was still low, England recorded its third-warmest winter in the entire 350-year record. The results do show, however, that there are a greater number of cold UK winters when solar activity is low,” he concluded.
The paper can be found in IOP Publishing’s open-access journal Environmental Research Letters.