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Weatherwatch: Extreme temperatures may be caused by stuck weather system

Snowfall in U.K.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Weatherwatch: Extreme temperatures may be caused by stuck weather system” was written by Paul Brown, for The Guardian on Friday 29th March 2013 22.30 UTC

The British weather has always been a useful topic of conversation because it never stops changing. The last couple of weeks have therefore been exceptional, unrelenting cold easterly winds and mostly cloudy, when it should be spring.

The problem has been a stationary high pressure to the north, which seems to be stuck. Normally “highs” are there for a day or two and then drift off to be replaced by another weather system.

By coincidence a month ago the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact research described exactly the problem of “stuck” high pressures to explain some of the many extreme weather events of the last decade. Normally “highs” and “lows” jostle for position in the northern hemisphere, squeezed between the Arctic north and the tropics. They move around the temperate regions in waves following the jet stream in a disorderly way producing ever-changing weather.

But as the climate has begun to alter, and the Arctic become warmer, some weather systems get stuck, at the top or bottom of the waves. Instead of giving a day or two of heat or cold the systems can remain stationary for weeks.

The Institute concentrated on examining droughts and heatwaves, like the one that hit the United States corn-belt last year, but the theory could apply equally to the UK’s current cold spell. If correct we could be in for more of these long lasting extremes – cold, wet or hot depending on which weather system gets stuck and where.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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