It’s miles above the earth, so what kind of weather we encounter every day is important, whether it’s hail, rain or sunshine.
Currently, to forecast the weather conditions of the future, Scottish scientists have begun a large-scale study of European glaciers and their effect on the movement of the jet stream.
The research, led by Aberdeen University, has so far given the clearest image of Europe’s ancient weather patterns, which could now strengthen the models used to forecast the continent’s potential effects of climate change.
A network of European scientists from eight universities studied a wealth of data on ancient glacial deposits used to recreate 3D models of the glaciers themselves, in the largest analysis of its kind.
They were able to determine, by calculating the shape of these glaciers, how much snowfall they required to survive.
They expect to establish how the atmosphere acted during a time of rapid climate cooling that occurred around 12,000 years ago during the so-called “Younger Dryas,”
The results indicate that during this time, the weather in northwestern Europe and most of the Mediterranean was much wetter compared to today, whereas it was previously assumed to be drier.
Crucially, the results have also helped scientists to understand the effects in the past, present and future of the movement of the jet stream – which defines our seasonal weather patterns.
More than 120 glaciers ranging from Norway and Ireland to Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, the Balkans and Turkey were analyzed in the report. In order to help educate us about the long-term impacts of continuing climate change, the findings can now be used to refine computational models.
In collaboration with colleagues from the Universities of Madrid, Manchester, Bergen, Pisa, Southeast Norway, Lund University and ETH Zurich, Professor Brice Rea and Dr. Matteo Spagnolo from the University’s School of Geosciences led the research.
“Current climate models are not very clear as to exactly how the jet stream will change and the measured records go back a little over 100 years,” Mr. Rea said.
But here, for the first time, we have a good view of where the jet stream was at the end of the last glacial period, and the seasonal weather effect it had. Which tells us a lot about the atmosphere of the past now that we understand where the jet stream was 12,000 years ago.
“In order to assess the quantities of snowfall and the movement of the atmosphere, our methodology included observing the glaciers from that time. It is
There are temperature reconstructions, but they don’t tell us much about how the climate acted or where the weather was coming from.
“That’s the special thing about this research. In terms of providing data to assess how climate models can forecast jet stream motions and the subsequent weather in the future, the outcomes are extremely useful.
Mr. Spagnolo identified the methods they used as equivalent to those used by paleontologists, but they studied the landscape to assess the position and elevation of glaciers instead of examining fossils, enabling them to develop an understanding of the past environment.
“He said, “The techniques we use depend on the ‘landscape memory’ left 12,000 years ago by ancient glaciers to understand air mass circulation across Europe. Here we take all the glaciers together for the first time and see a Europe-wide picture of how the climate at that time behaved.
This research is ultimately about climate change. Current climate models depend heavily on current data, but we need to go far further back in time to refine those models.
“This is the most accurate proxy-based representation of atmospheric circulation at the end of the last ice age ever produced, and the data can be used to improve the models that predict what will happen to our climate if, as seems likely, the jet stream shifts as a result of ongoing climate change.”