From: Tamera Jones, Planet Earth Online
Published October 11, 2011 08:47 AM

Clear link between solar activity and winter weather revealed

Scientists have demonstrated a clear link between the 11-year sun cycle and winter weather over the northern hemisphere for the first time. They found that low solar activity can contribute to cold winters in the UK, northern Europe and parts of America. But high activity from the sun has the opposite effect. The study helps explain why the UK has been gripped by such cold winters over the last few years: the sun is just emerging from a so-called solar minimum, when solar activity is at its lowest.

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'Our research establishes the link between the solar cycle and winter climate as more than just coincidence,' says Dr Adam Scaife from the UK's Met Office, one of the study's authors.

The findings, published in Nature Geoscience also raise the tantalising possibility that the regularity of the solar cycle might help weathermen predict cold winter weather over the northern hemisphere.

'We've been able to reproduce a consistent climate pattern, confirm how it works, and quantify it using a computer model. This isn't the sole driver of winter climate over our region, but it is a significant factor and understanding it is important for seasonal to decadal forecasting,' says Scaife.

Up until now, researchers have only managed to see a weak link between solar activity and winter weather: when the sun is less active, we're more likely to see weak westerly winds during the winter in the northern hemisphere. This pattern suggests that easterly winds could bring cold weather from the continent to the UK.

Article continues: http://planetearth.nerc.ac.uk/news/story.aspx?id=1073

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