The Arctic Polar Jet Stream has gone “loopy”!

In the latter half of March Canadian weather was cold – in the case of the Prairies extremely cold! Surprisingly the settlements on Baffin Island were experiencing relatively mild weather.     One could say that North American weather was turned upside down:  some southern Canadian regions were very cold while Arctic regions were milder. Or, to be more precise, record cold in Saskatchewan and record high temperatures in Nunavut.

In the UK things were so bad that a family member complained to us about the March climate miseries, which were threatening to crack her stiff upper lip. Easter was the coldest ever recorded in the UK, more than 20 degrees below average, and the month of March was the second coldest in 100 years of record keeping. The Met Office extended their Cold Weather Alert Service, which usually finishes at the end of March, by an additional two weeks because of the unrelenting bad weather. The Daily Telegraph thought up the headline: “It’s snowing and it really feels like the beginning of a mini-ice age”.

Robert Browning wrote:

“Oh to be in England, now that April’s here!”

Unfortunately April is predicted to be a month much colder than the average.

Why this weird weather?

For answers we went to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the British Met Office.  Here is what we found: the Arctic Polar Jet Stream has gone “loopy”.  Usually the jet stream is a fast flowing high atmospheric air current found between air masses of  significantly different temperature.  With the warming of the Arctic the temperature difference is less so the jet stream is weakening.   As it weakens, it starts to meander, looping to the South. The most recent atmospheric charts of the jet stream show significant loops.

In the case of the UK the jet stream divided in two, one part going north of the British Isles and the other part south.  This trick meant that Britain got the cold that goes with the arctic, and not the benign breezes of the Atlantic.  To make matters worse, a high pressure area stopped the cold weather directly over the UK, much like a Greenland high stopped Hurricane Sandy from veering out into the Atlantic.

There is relief in sight.  When the high pressure formation moves, the UK will experience warmer but wetter weather.  That suggests another year of heavy flooding.

We don’t expect that the inhabitants of the Isles will be saying “That’s great”!

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