Enjoy the weather while you can, the winter is likely to be volatile

Winters in this part of the world are becoming increasingly volatile due to extreme variations in pressure over the North Atlantic according to scientists from the University of Sheffield and the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Winter weather conditions are commonly defined using the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The NAO is a south-north seesaw of barometric pressure variations over the North Atlantic which indicates the strength of westerly winds impinging on our shores and resulting weather patterns.

According to Prof Phil Jones from UEA’s Climatic Research Unit when we look at the month of December in particular, our data shows that over the last 115 years, three out of five all-time record high NAO values and two out of five record lows took place in the last decade.

He said this indicates that winters in this region have become increasingly unsettled. If this trend continues, we can expect more volatile winter weather in decades to come.

Prof Edward Hanna, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Geography, said: “Our study highlights the changing nature of North Atlantic atmospheric circulation patterns that has given the UK more variable winter conditions in recent years.

“We cannot use these results directly to predict this winter’s weather but according to the long-term NAO trend we can say that the probability of getting extreme winter weather – either mild/stormy or cold/snowy – has significantly increased in the last few decades. Further research is needed to show whether or not this increased volatility is linked to global warming.”

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