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Study Links Solar Activity, Cold Weather In UK

April 15, 2010

A new study, published Thursday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, may help to explain why the United Kingdom and parts of continental Europe are experiencing cold temperatures during the age of global warming.

The reason, according to a team of researchers led by University of Reading space environment physics professor Mike Lockwood, is a newly discovered link between low solar activity and jet streams over the Atlantic Ocean.

Lockwood and his partners looked at temperature records dating back to 1659, and found that, on average, colder winter temperatures occurred during times when the Sun emitted lower amounts of radiation. The presence of fewer sunspots, as well as fronts keeping warmer westerly winds from reaching Europe during the winter, have resulted in cooler regional temps, they claim.

“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,” Lockwood said in a Thursday press release. “We have discovered that this kind of anomaly is significantly more common when solar activity is low… there are a greater number of cold UK winters when solar activity is low.”

In their paper, “Are cold winters in Europe associated with low solar activity?” the researchers have found a strong correlation between weak solar activities and blocking, or a phenomenon in which warmer winds traveling in from the west lose their way.

Joining Professor Lockwood and his University of Reading colleagues were experts from the Science and Technology Facilities Council Space Science and Technology Department at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, as well as the Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany.

Image Courtesy NASA/SOHO

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