Britain's Rainy Summer
Are we to blame for our rainy summer?
The UK has just experienced the rainiest June on record (according to the Times newspaper) and it could be the rainiest July too. With the school holidays about to begin, this dismal forecast breeds horror into the hearts of stay-at-home mums everywhere.
The Gulf Stream System
But what is causing this dramatic shift in weather patterns?
To answer this question we have to look at the mysterious climate-controlling effects of the Gulf Stream, the most important ocean-current system in the northern hemisphere.
The Gulf Stream, which stretches from Florida to North Western Europe, incorporates several ocean currents, including the North Atlantic Drift. This relatively warm current has a moderating effect on the climate of Western Europe. It is the reason England doesn’t get as cold as Canada in winter, which lies at the same latitude. It is also the reason Norwegian ports don’t freeze over during the year.
Without the North Atlantic Drift’s moderating effect, the average temperature in England would be 5’C lower than normal, causing freezing winters and a host of related problems.
Factors that influence the North Atlantic Drift include temperature and salinity. Water in the north Atlantic is cold and dense, and runs very deep. Once it enters the Gulf of Mexico, it warms considerably, resurfaces and flows back north as the Gulf Stream.
Global warming – a disruptive force?
According to New Scientist Magazine, the warm waters of the North Atlantic Drift are being disrupted by a growing amount of freshwater entering the Arctic Ocean.
This could be a result of global warming – melting icebergs, increased rainfall, changing wind patterns.
The danger is that this influx of cooler water from the Arctic will disrupt the sensitive ‘conveyer belt’ system of the North Atlantic Drift preventing it from doing its job properly. Currently it brings warm surface water north from the Gulf of Mexico and sends the cold, deep water back.
Scientists have been worried for some time that the effects of global warming could interrupt the North Atlantic Drift, causing dramatic climate change, but so far there has been little evidence of that happening.
Extreme weather conditions are being seen all over the globe. North America is experiencing record high temperatures, a heat wave which is being blamed for 30 deaths this month. According to todayonline.com temperatures in Washington pushed past 40’C on Saturday (7th July, 2012). The National Weather Service has issued excessive heat warnings.
Russia on the other hand is plagued by rampant flooding due to unprecedented rainfall. This has resulted in over a hundred deaths and thousands left homeless.
Record high rainfalls are being experienced in the UK. According to the Times, an average of 44mm of rain fell across England and Wales in the first six days of the month – well over the monthly average.
Is global warming to blame?
Global warming has lead to an average increase in the global temperature which scientists tell us results in extreme weather patterns – from stronger storms and hotter heatwaves to drier droughts and damper downpours.
Is this unprecedented rainy summer a direct result of global warming? Have we finally pushed the fragile weather systems over the edge?
Who really knows for sure? But what forecasters have assured us is the rain is not going to quit anytime soon.
So to all the mums out there, you’d best invest in raincoats and wellies. It’s going to be a very long summer holiday.