Ice is melting in Greenland - so what, it is far away from Europe

Lauantai 2.3.2024 klo 15.06 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Heat waves, drought, heavy rain, floods, no snow in winter, extreme cold – weather in Europe has been extreme for many years now. And the weather pattern differs markedly spatially. When the British Isles had very warm November 2023, Scandinavia was freezing. Major things affecting weather are the location, direction and strength of tropospheric jet streams. Knowing how the jet streams are what they are would significantly help in predicting weather effects of climate change.

Oltmanns et al. (Weather and Climate Dynamics 5, 109-132, 2024) have now evaluated what changes in the melting of Greenland’s glaciers does to summer weather in Europe in the following years. They evaluated statistically what the relationship between freshwater flow to the Arctic sea and distinct aspects of weather, like temperature and rain, is. The links between freshwater flow to ocean and European weather were statistically significant for several years, and showed that significant spatial variation will also occur.

Why would there be a significant effect of melting water in East coast of North America? The reason appears to be that the cold meltwater increases the temperature difference between the subpolar and subtropical ocean water. The latitudinal boundary between the southern warm and northern cold water depends on the amount of melted water. This affects where the jet stream is located and if cold or hot air will be moving in the stream. Consequently, the temperature in European continent will be affected. The changes of freshwater melt have been such that heat waves in Europe have been favoured in summer, and the increase of summer temperatures has been greater than expected.

The article elegantly describes why and how the overall climate change can influence weather, often in conflicting ways. If I have read the figures right, the data used also show that ice-melt can cause the observed cold spells in Scandinavia, or, in any case, that weather variability increases. That is bad news for agriculture.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, weather, jet streams