Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

More than 1 in 10 chance of colder UK winters

05.07.2011
As the Sun enters a period of low solar activity over the next 50 years, new research has calculated the probability of unusually cold winter temperatures occurring in the UK.

Last year, the same group of researchers, from the University of Reading, linked colder winters in Europe to low solar activity and predicted that the Sun is moving into a particularly low period of activity, meaning the UK will experience more cold winters in the future – potentially similar to those experienced in the Maunder minimum at the end of the 17th century.

The new research, published today, Tuesday 5 July 2011, in IOP Publishing's journal Environmental Research Letters, supports recent suggestions that sunspot activity is waning, and goes further, using the behaviour of the Sun over the last 9300 years to predict the probabilities of future solar changes.

Over the next 50 years, the researchers show that the probability of the Sun returning to Maunder minimum conditions is about 10 per cent, raising the chances that the average winter temperature will fall below 2.5 oC to around 1 in 7, assuming all other factors, including man-made effects and El Niño, remain constant.

Put in context, the average UK winter temperature for the last 20 years has been 5.04 oC, however the last three winters have averaged 3.50 °C, 2.53 °C and 3.13 °C, with 2009/10 being the 14th coldest in the last 160 years.

The increased probability of colder winters could hold great value for national infrastructure planning by government organisations who have struggled to adapt to the extreme weather conditions experienced in the UK over the past two years.

It is stressed, however, that these results do not have any implications for global climate change, which is concerned with average temperatures for all parts of the world and all times of year. The reported changes only apply in winter and are regional – for example, when the winter is colder in Europe it tends to be warmer in Greenland so that there is almost no effect on the global mean.

These studies obtained the average temperatures between December and February for the past 352 years from the Central England Temperature (CET) data series – the world's longest instrumental temperature record, maintained by the UK Met Office, extending back to 1659.

This data set was combined with records of the Sun's activity obtained through the analysis of 'cosmogenic isotopes', which are specific types of carbon and beryllium that are known to be influenced by the Sun.

The magnetic field of the Sun protects the Earth from galactic cosmic rays, which, as they hit the Earth's atmosphere, generate the cosmogenic isotopes which are then deposited in tree trunks and ice sheets. These cosmogenic isotopes can be collected and dated providing a unique insight into the Sun's variability on timescales ranging from years to millennia.

Data from the cosmogenic isotopes suggests that we are currently coming to the end of a grand solar maximum – a period of intense activity in the Sun – and will therefore experience lower solar activity conditions in future,.

Many researchers have argued that temperature changes attributed to the Sun are, in reality, just caused by the internal variability of the climate system; however, the authors have used this 352-year temperature record to show that there is some, albeit small, predictive skill to be gained from solar activity despite it being just one of a number of factors that influence UK weather.

One mechanism that suggests a link between the Sun and recent cold winters is 'blocking'. Low solar activity causes extensive anticyclones that persist for several weeks in the Atlantic Ocean, causing the warm westerly winds to be replaced by cold, continental north-easterly winds. Depending on the position of the anticyclone, this can also lead to clear skies at night causing the land to cool even further.

Lead author Professor Mike Lockwood said, "Our results show that over the next fifty years there is a 10 per cent chance that temperatures will return to Maunder minimum levels. Describing the Maunder minimum as a 'little ice age' is somewhat misleading however.

"Cold winters were indeed more common during the Maunder minimum but there were also some very warm ones between them, summers were not colder, and the drop in average temperatures was not nearly as great, nor as global, as during a real ice age."

From Tuesday 5 July this journal paper can be found at http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/6/3/034004

Notes to Editors

Contact

1. For further information, a full draft of the journal paper or contact with one of the researchers, contact IOP Publishing Press Assistant, Michael Bishop:
Tel: 0117 930 1032
E-mail: Michael.bishop@iop.org
The solar influence on the probability of cold UK winters in the future
2. The published version of the paper "The solar influence on the probability of cold UK winters in the future" (M Lockwood et al 2011 Environ. Res. Lett. 6 034004) will be freely available online from Tuesday 5 July. It will be available at http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/6/3/034004

Environmental Research Letters

3. Environmental Research Letters covers all of environmental science, providing a coherent and integrated approach including research articles, perspectives and editorials.

IOP Publishing

4. IOP Publishing provides publications through which leading-edge scientific research is distributed worldwide. IOP Publishing is central to the Institute of Physics (IOP), a not-for-profit society. Any financial surplus earned by IOP Publishing goes to support science through the activities of IOP.Beyond our traditional journals programme, we make high-value scientific information easily accessible through an ever-evolving portfolio of community websites, magazines, conference proceedings and a multitude of electronic services. Focused on making the most of new technologies, we're continually improving our electronic interfaces to make it easier for researchers to find exactly what they need, when they need it, in the format that suits them best. Go to http://publishing.iop.org/.

The Institute of Physics

5. The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society promoting physics and bringing physicists together for the benefit of all.

It has a worldwide membership of around 40 000 comprising physicists from all sectors, as well as those with an interest in physics. It works to advance physics research, application and education; and engages with policy makers and the public to develop awareness and understanding of physics. Its publishing company, IOP Publishing, is a world leader in professional scientific communications. Go to www.iop.org.

Michael Bishop | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.iop.org

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht New material for splitting water
19.06.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht Carbon nanotube optics provide optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing
19.06.2018 | DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

Im Focus: Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

A boost for graphene-based light detectors

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Carbon nanotube optics provide optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing

19.06.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

How to track and trace a protein: Nanosensors monitor intracellular deliveries

19.06.2018 | Life Sciences

New material for splitting water

19.06.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>