Solar Activity Linked To Extreme Weather Conditions in Europe

The Solar cycle might be related to the heating and cooling of our planet, says a new study. The extreme weather in European winters can be tracked to the dip in solar activity in the recent past, like November-December, 2010, claim British researchers.

Unusually cold winters: The mechanism (Courtesy: Nature)

In their paper  published yesterday (9th October, 2011) in Nature Geoscience, the joint research team at Hadley Centre, Oxford University and the Imperial College argue that the correlation between the two is too strong to be just a coincidence.

The authors hasten to add that the effect is not a global warming or cooling of the Earth. Cool Northern Europe temperatures are compensated by hotter ones down south, thus there is no net temperature change of the Earth, averaged out over a year.

The Mechanism

The team focuses on the UV absorption of the atmosphere by the ozone layer. (Photo above) The ozone in the stratosphere heats up and this effect percolates to the lower atmosphere. This changes the wind pattern across North America and Europe, weakening it and allowing frigid winds from Greenland to flow to the UK and the rest of Europe. This creates cold winters in Europe.

Not quite open-and-shut case

It is not a clear open and shut case, since other factors like the El Nino or the melting sea ice play major roles in creating extremely cold winters in Europe. The data must be significant enough.

The work is not complete and only further data will confirm the measurements taken.

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Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.