Stand by for another DECADE of wet summers, say Met Office meteorologists

Climate change may be intensifying the natural cycle and may prolong it, says expert, but it is too early to say

Environment Editor

Britain faces ten more years of wet summers, after the Met Office revealed the country is in the midst of a rare weather cycle that increases the prospect of summer rain and could last for two decades.

Since the cycle began in 2007, six of the past seven summers have been wetter than average - with last summer seeing the heaviest rainfall in a century at almost double the seasonal average.

Although the cycle does not guarantee wet summers, it “loads the dice” in favour of increased rainfall each year, making wet summers more likely for the next five to ten years. The prediction is based on the last two times the cycle - known as Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation - occurred, in the 1950s and early 1960s and in the 1880s.

“This is a really new and exciting finding,” said Professor Stephen Belcher, head of the Met Office Hadley Centre, of the research by the University of Reading.

“Up to ten years from now the cycle could persist and therefore there is a higher possibility of wet summers,” he added.

Climate change may be intensifying the natural cycle and may prolong it, but it is too early to say for certain, Professor Belcher said.

“Now we are beginning to unpick and understand, we can design experiments to understand whether climate change is playing a role. It could be, we just don't know - but we now have a clear research path to investigate this,” he said.

The weather cycle is determined, in part, by the way the atmosphere and the North Atlantic Ocean exchange heat, which guides the jet stream.

“It's the pattern of warm and cold water, it's the contrast of the warm and the cold, when that sits in the right place beneath the jet stream, it can kind of steer the jet stream and influence where it goes,” said Professor Belcher.

Scientists are making much of the jet stream and how changes in these strong winds are affecting the weather.

They say the jet stream has generally been travelling much further south in recent years than is normal. The jet stream usually travels north of the UK over the summer, but has often blown to the south in recent years, allowing colder air to come in from the north that reduces temperatures and increases rainfall.

One theory is that the accelerating loss of Arctic ice has reduced the temperature difference between the North Pole and the warmer, mid latitude countries such as the UK.

This has weakened the jet stream, which travel from west to east at speeds of more than 200 miles an hour five to seven miles above the earth's surface, making it less powerful and more meandering - often in a southerly direction.

Since the Atlantic multi-decadal cycle began, three of the seven summers have seen the triple disappointment of having below average temperatures, below average sunshine and above average rainfall, the Met Office said.

The Met Office gave its qualified warning about the potentially wet summers ahead, following a meeting to discuss whether the unusual weather patterns seen in recent years were in part influenced by climate change.

It convened a group of 25 experts at its head office in Exeter from Universities including Exeter, Leeds, Oxford, Reading and Imperial College London.

In addition to discussing the recent wet summers, they also debated this year's spring -  the coldest in 50 years and the freezing winter in 2010/2011 which included the UK's coldest December since records began in 1910 with heavy snowfall that caused travel chaos over Christmas.

The Met Office said “there is some evidence to suggest that changes in the Arctic climate may be making an impact” on winter temperatures.

Summing up, Professor Belcher said: “The key question is what is causing the jet stream to shift in this way? There is some research to say some parts of the natural system load the dice to influence certain states of the jet stream, but this loading may be further amplified by climate change.”

The meeting came after the National Farmers' Union reported that wheat harvests are likely to be around 30 per cent lower than last year as a result of the extreme weather over winter, making it the second below-average harvest in as many years.

Beekeepers have also reported that a third of honeybee colonies failed to survive the winter following last year's wash-out summer and continuing bad weather into 2013, exacerbated by the late arrival of spring.

* Warmest day of the year for UK... but with sweltering humidity and very high pollen levels

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map