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Wavy Jets and Arctic Climate Change

Prof. Alan Haywood (SEE), Dr Daniel Hill (SEE), Dr Julia Tindall (SEE), Dr Aisling Dolan (SEE), Dr Jochen Voss (SoM)

Project partner(s): United States Geological Survey

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Rising temperatures due to the emission of greenhouse gases may be changing atmospheric circulation. This is expressed most clearly by changes in regional weather patterns, and in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. One of the most critical components of the atmospheric circulation affecting European climate is the jet stream, which consists of ribbons of strong winds that move weather systems across the continent. Over the last few years (including the summer of 2018) patterns of unusually persistent dry/warm or wet weather across Europe have been linked to the position of the jet stream. The unusual jet stream behaviour may be related reduced summer sea-ice extent and increased temperatures in the Arctic.

A link between a warming world, a changing Arctic, and jet stream behaviour is difficult to resolve at present due to natural year to year variability in these systems, and the short period in which changes have been observed in the jet stream and Arctic sea-ice behaviour.

Examining the nature of the Arctic and its relationship to the jet stream and European weather/climate in the past provides a unique solution to this problem. During past warm climate states, which had high concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, the climate system reached equilibrium so that the relationship between atmospheric CO2, warming, Arctic sea-ice extent and jet stream behaviour can be robustly evaluated. Warm intervals in the past provide us with a unique natural laboratory in which to investigate long-term environmental change, and where climate models can be used to enhance our understanding of atmospheric, oceanic and ice sheet behaviour, which is directly relevant to our understanding of climate change in the future.

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Related undergraduate subjects:

  • Applied mathematics
  • Astronomy
  • Atmospheric science
  • Computer science
  • Computing
  • Earth science
  • Earth system science
  • Environmental science
  • Geochemistry
  • Geography
  • Geological science
  • Geology
  • Geophysical science
  • Geophysics
  • Geoscience
  • Mathematics
  • Meteorology
  • Natural sciences
  • Oceanography
  • Physical geography
  • Physical science
  • Physics
  • Statistics