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Will Declining Arctic Ice Make UK Winters Colder?

October 22, 2012
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By Paul Homewood


Big freeze: Cars battle snowy weather in December last year


There have been various claims recently that the shrinking of Arctic ice could be acting to make our winters colder and snowier. The arguments usually centre around changing  jet streams and atmospheric blocking patterns.

We looked at one such claim last month, which had failed to explain that the same blocking patterns, that their models theorised about, had been found back in the 1960’s and had, according to scientists such as HH Lamb, been caused by expanding Arctic ice!

The BBC also reported earlier in the year about another study by Jiping Liu of the Georgia Institute of Technology, which made similar claims.

Forecasts of terrible winters, of course, are not new. In October last year, we were confidently told by the Daily Mail and others that we were in for another freezing winter. In the event the UK ended up having a pretty mild one!





The claims seem to centre around the fact that cold, snowy winters have become more prevalent, both in the UK as well as the US and Europe, in the last few years since the deterioration of ice cover in 2007. A whole 5 years! Are they seriously making assumptions and projections around such a short span of time?

Still, giving them the benefit of the doubt, how do recent UK winters compare to earlier ones, particularly the 1960’s and 70’s, when the Arctic was becoming colder and ice expanding?



Figure 1


Clearly, recent cold winters are nothing unusual, when compared with earlier decades. What was unusual was the run of mild winters during the 1990’s and early 2000’s. It is also worth noting that the variability from one year to the next, which has been seen recently, is not unusual in the slightest. The record cold winter of 1962/63 was sandwiched between two mild winters. Similarly with 1978/79 and other years. There is nothing weird about it, it’s just weather.

Figure 2 takes the analysis back to 1911. While recent winters have not been as mild, on the whole, as those of 1995-2005, they have not been unusual in comparison with earlier ones.



Figure 2

Indeed, over the last century, the most remarkable thing about our winter climate is that so little has actually changed.

  1. October 23, 2012 5:57 am

    The more things don’t change, the more they remain the same. Or SLT.

  2. TinyCO2 permalink
    October 23, 2012 9:36 am

    Agree totally. The warmists would be far safer saying that cold winters are part of natural variation, that temporarily interrupts warming. The reason they don’t is because they wanted to convey the idea that CO2 based warming was a far stronger signal than natural variation. Some have even said it would overwhelm the fall into the next ice age (ignoring that that would be a good thing).

    For me, what was interesting about uk temperatures was the block of very similar years, with little year to year variation. Without so many consecutive warm years the rise of the running total would not have been so pronounced. It started in the late 80s and tied in with the dying of the thermometers highlighted by Chiefio (though I’m not sure that that was the cause). The rise in temperatures was not that exceptional, the lack of random cool years was.

    The CET is very interesting when examined at a monthly level. Over the last 100 years December, January and February show very little change, with a trend down from both ends towards the 60s/70s. The other months vary but often show a step change. What typifies many of the months is the lack of variation and cold years in the last 20/30 years. Spring and Autumn show the greatest changes. How could CO2 be responsible for those strange variations? It makes more sense that ocean currents and jet stream weirdness are responsible for the bulk of the exceptional warming. Some of those oddities are resuming an older pattern, the cold months return and the CET falls rapidly from it’s alarming peak of about 2006. Another possibility is a lack of fog/smog which I’m sure skewed incidences of cold.

    Unfortuantely, the UK and Europe are key parts of the global temperature series, in part because they’re often the longest. I suspect that our temperamental climate has been used to measure other countries against and their records have been adjusted to match (eg changes to Arctic stations and the messing about in the Antipodes).

    Without understanding the month to month changes, making a conclusion about the annual figures is impossible.


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