Where did English summer go?

August 22, 2007

What is a proper English summer? Should we really expect unfettered sunshine and months spent in the garden with our barbecues? Is it time to admit our climate is variable and the weather is hard to predict?

An expert in environmental change at The University of Nottingham says our knowledge is improving exponentially but there is still a long way to go. Teleconnections and feedbacks are critical in determining the operation of the climate system and the challenge for climate scientists is to understand the nature and scale of past natural variability - only then can we tease out what impact humans have had on the climate system and what the implications might be.

Professor Michele Clarke, from the School of Geography, points out that in April the U.K. Met Office published its summer forecast predicting that we could experience warmer temperatures than normal and warning that “periods of very hot weather” have “implications for people's health”. It has been warm, she says, but it has also been very wet and the Met Office admits that it could not have predicted the record breaking rainfall in June and July.

Professor Clarke said: “I don't blame the forecasters for getting it wrong but there is an important lesson here. The climate system is complex and varies at a range of spatial and temporal scales making predictions very difficult. If we have difficulties predicting the weather for tomorrow how can we realistically predict future climate? In order to improve our predictive abilities we need to improve our understanding of how the climate system works and how the feedbacks between the oceans, complex land surfaces and the atmosphere operate”.

We now know that our wet summer was caused by changes in the Pacific. It's all the fault of La Niña (part of the natural El Niño Southern Oscillation) in which abnormal cooling of Pacific ocean temperatures influences atmospheric circulation systems, deflecting the Atlantic jet stream southwards bringing low pressure systems and rain to us (instead of Iceland).

Professor Clarke suggests: “Citizens demonstrating against climate change at power stations and airports this summer could be premature in their concerns but the residents of Tewkesbury, who are campaigning against new housing developments on their floodplain, have a better case”.

Source: University of Nottingham

Explore further: Western Canada to lose 70 percent of glaciers by 2100

Related Stories

Western Canada to lose 70 percent of glaciers by 2100

April 6, 2015

Seventy per cent of glacier ice in British Columbia and Alberta could disappear by the end of the 21st century, creating major problems for local ecosystems, power supplies, and water quality, according to a new study by ...

Long-standing climate paradox resolved

May 5, 2014

(Phys.org) —Climate scientists have long documented the strong control of Earth's orbital variations on the waxing and waning of the great ice ages, when huge "pluvial" lakes filled the valley floors of the Great Basin. ...

Massive spruce beetle outbreak in Colorado tied to drought

October 10, 2013

A new University of Colorado Boulder study indicates drought high in the northern Colorado mountains is the primary trigger of a massive spruce beetle outbreak that is tied to long-term changes in sea-surface temperatures ...

Polar ecosystems vulnerable to sunlight

July 31, 2013

(Phys.org) —Slight changes in the timing of the annual loss of sea-ice in polar regions could have dire consequences for polar ecosystems, by allowing a lot more sunlight to reach the sea floor.

Recommended for you

New study sheds light on end of Snowball Earth period

August 24, 2015

The second ice age during the Cryogenian period was not followed by the sudden and chaotic melting-back of the ice as previously thought, but ended with regular advances and retreats of the ice, according to research published ...

Earth's mineralogy unique in the cosmos

August 26, 2015

New research from a team led by Carnegie's Robert Hazen predicts that Earth has more than 1,500 undiscovered minerals and that the exact mineral diversity of our planet is unique and could not be duplicated anywhere in the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.