Britain can expect twice as many severe winters as usual over the coming decades, according to a study supporting the counterintuitive idea that global warming could lead to colder weather in some parts of the world.
Climate scientists believe they have found evidence to suggest that the loss of floating Arctic sea ice in the Barents and Kara seas north of Scandinavia can affect the global circulation of air currents and lead to bitterly cold winds blowing for extended periods in winter over Central Asia and Europe, including the UK.
The research, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, supports several previous studies published over the past few years that also indicate a change in the winter climate over Eurasia as a result of the loss of Arctic sea ice. Arctic sea ice has declined significantly over the past three or four decades.
However, the Japanese scientists who carried out the latest study said that the cooling effect is unlikely to last beyond this century. Rising global temperatures will eventually cancel out any localised cooling caused by loss of Arctic sea ice, although they said it is not possible to predict when this will happen.
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
Calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers are seen floating on the water in Qaqortoq, Greenland
Oroumieh, one of the biggest saltwater lakes on Earth, has shrunk more than 80 percent to 1,000 square kilometers in the past decade. It shrinks mainly because of climate change, expanded irrigation for surrounding farms and the damming of rivers that feed the body of water
A boat navigates among calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers in Qaqortoq, Greenland. Boats are a crucial mode of transportation in the country that has few roads. As cities like Miami, New York and other vulnerable spots around the world strategize about how to respond to climate change, many Greenlanders simply do what theyve always done: adapt. 'Were used to change, said Greenlander Pilu Neilsen. 'We learn to adapt to whatever comes. If all the glaciers melt, well just get more land
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is seen after being inaugurated in Longyearbyen, Norway. The 'doomsday' seed vault built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters opened deep within an Arctic mountain in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
A technician preparing to drain a vast underground lake at the Tete Rousse glacier on the Mont Blanc Alpine mountain, to avert a potentially disatrous flood. Some 65,000 cubic metres (2.3 million cubic feet) of water have gathered in a cavity, dangerously raising the pressure beneath the mountain, a favourite spot for holiday makers in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains
Cracked mud is picture at sunrise in the dried shores of Lake Gruyere affected by continuous drought near the western Switzerland village of Avry-devant-Pont. A leading climate scientist warned that Europe should take action over increasing drought and floods, stressing that some climate change trends were clear despite variations in predictions
Cattle graze on grassland that remains dry and brown at the height of the rainy season in south of Bakersfield, California. Its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and dating back as far as 500 years, according to some scientists who study tree rings
An aerial view shows tents of flood-displaced people surrounded by water in southern Sehwan town. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Figueres met with people displaced by last year's devastating floods. Catastrophic monsoon rains that swept through the country in 2010 and affected some 20 million people, destroyed 1.7 million homes and damaged 5.4 million acres of arable land
An aerial view of flooding in North Wagga Wagga. Climate change is amplifying risks from drought, floods, storm and rising seas, threatening all countries but small island states, poor nations and arid regions in particular, UN experts warned
Damages caused by a landslide on the Pan-American highway near La Moramulca, 55 Km south of Tegucigalpa. International highways have been washed out, villages isolated and thousands of families have lost homes and crops in a region that the United Nations has classified as one of the most affected by climate change
A resident sprays water on a peatland fire in Pekanbaru district in Riau province on Indonesia's Sumatra island. Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands, is one of the world's biggest carbon emitters because of rampant deforestation. US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday issued a clarion call for nations to do to more to combat climate change, calling it 'the world's largest weapon of mass destruction'
An excavator clearing a peatland forest area for a palm oil plantations in Trumon subdistrict, Aceh province, on Indonesia's Sumatra island. As Southeast Asia's largest economy grows rapidly, swathes of biodiverse forests across the archipelago of 17,000 islands have been cleared to make way for paper and palm oil plantations, as well as for mining and agriculture. The destruction has ravaged biodiversity, placing animals such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers in danger of extinction, while also leading to the release of vast amounts of climate change-causing carbon dioxide
Stagnant rain water with tannery waste make the Hazaribagh area in Old Dhaka as well as Buriganga River the most polluted. Each year during the seven-month long dry season between October and April the Buriganga River becomes totally stagnant with its upstream region drying up and becoming polluted from toxic waste from city industries
Waste water from Dhaka city drained to the River Buriganga contributes to its pollutions. On the World Water Day observed in 2007 under the theme Coping with Water Scarcity, under the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, DrikNEWS explores some of the images of the river. UN-Water has identified coping with water scarcity as part of the strategic issues and priorities requiring joint UN action. The theme highlights the significance of cooperation and importance of an integrated approach to water resource management of water at international, national and local levels
Heavy smog has been lingering in northern and eastern parts of China, disturbing the traffic, worsening air pollution and forcing the closure of schools. China's Environment Ministry said it will send inspection teams to provinces and cities most seriously affected by smog to ensure rules on fighting air pollution are being enforced
Masato Mori, of Tokyo University, and colleagues from Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies and the National Institute of Polar Research, performed 200 slightly different computer simulations of the global atmospheric circulation based on actual sea ice measurements made since 2004, when there were years of high and low sea-ice cover in the Barents and Kara seas.
They found that a decline in sea ice was linked with a “blocking” pattern in the high-altitude atmospheric air currents. This blocking became twice as likely in low sea-ice years and it favoured the transport of cold, Arctic air south and west over Europe and Asia.
Colin Summerhayes, emeritus associate of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, said: “This counterintuitive effect... makes some people think that global warming has stopped. It has not. Although average surface warming has been slower since 2000, the Arctic has gone on warming rapidly throughout this time.”
Professor Jennifer Francis, of New Jersey’s Rutgers University, one of the first researchers to make a link between loss of sea ice and changes to the jet stream, said: “Based on this new solid and convincing work, together with the other recent studies that support the existence of this particular mechanism, I think we can say this response is real.”
Big freezes: Britain at its coldest
2013: January and March brought two waves of heavy snow, causing chaos for travellers and closing schools.
2010: From late November to early December, heavy snow caused disruption across the country. Temperatures plunged too, with a low of -21.1C recorded at Altnaharra in the Scottish Highlands.
1963: The coldest winter since 1740. The sea froze in places, with blizzards and snow drifts across the country. Winter didn’t fully relax its grip until early March.Reuse content