Matt Talbot Bridge in Dublin, December 2010. Image Anthony McEvoy
irishweatheronline.com | Jun 20, 2011
By Mark Dunphy
A UK-based long range weather forecaster has issued a severe winter weather warning for 2011-2012. The advisory has been issued following one of the coldest winters experienced in Ireland and Britain more than 45 years.
James Madden from weather organisation Exacta Weather correctly predicted the harsh conditions experienced over the last two years, and is once again forecasting record breaking snowfall and freezing temperatures during November, December and January.
One of Madden’s primary methods of analysing long range weather conditions is his analysis of solar cycles. Last week Irish Weather Online carried a story from the National Solar Observatory (NSO) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) stating that a missing jet stream, fading spots, and slower activity near the poles are signs that our Sun is heading for a rest period even as it is acting up for the first time in years.
Dr. Frank Hill, associate director of the NSO’s Solar Synoptic Network, said of the results: “this could be the last solar maximum we’ll see for a few decades. That would affect everything from space exploration to Earth’s climate.
National newspapers, including the Irish Independent and Irish Times, subsequently carried stories warning that a decrease in solar activity will bring Arctic Winters to Ireland and Britain over the coming decades.
Commenting on the solar cycle, James Madden said: “Periods of low solar activity at present and what we have seen in recent years influence the Earth’s atmosphere by allowing the stratosphere to cool. This has a somewhat more profound effect over Northern Europe and the UK in terms of colder and snowier winters, due to jet stream patterns that block warm air from reaching us and create more moisture.”
“Although sunspot activity has increased somewhat this year and there has been an increase in solar flare activity, the activity is minuscule in comparison to what it should be like during a solar maximum and in terms of frequency. Periods of low solar activity such as this have future repercussions of low solar activity in future cycles and produce extra cloud cover that reflects sunlight with a cooling influence on Earth. The lack of major sunspots and solar flares clearly indicate a slower conveyor belt within the sun. We are now in a very weak solar maximum and my observations indicate that the next solar cycle will also be weak”, he added.
Commenting on La Nina and the Gulf Stream/North Atlantic Drift and their effect on our weather, Mr. Madden stated: “It is visible to see from recent NOAA satellite images that the Gulf Stream/North Atlantic Drift has drastically altered within the last few years. The Gulf Stream is basically a huge volume of heated water that brings warmth to the UK in terms of a mild atmosphere. This softens the climate we experience for the latitude we lie on. For example let’s take Newfoundland who lie on a similar latitude to the UK, yet they experience much harsher winters as they do not benefit from this valuable heat source.
“La Niña is the cooling of the Pacific Ocean near the equator and influences changes to atmospheric pressure and wind changes. In terms of the UK this makes the jet streams in the North Atlantic stronger and therefore offers more precipitation in the form of widespread heavy snowfall during below average temperatures as cold easterlies dominate”, he explained.
Mr. Madden also said that the dust and ash particles released by the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland and Chile would also contribute to cooling down of global temperatures. He continued: “Converted sulphur dioxide emissions from volcanic eruptions can also cause sunlight reflection in the atmosphere. “
He said he expected the 2011-2012 winter to follow a similar pattern in terms of how November and December was in 2010 for the vast majority of the coming winter.
“It will be exceptionally cold and snowy with well below average temperatures. I fully expect to see records broken with the highlands of Scotland being once again particularly hard hit. It is therefore vital to start preparing now in terms of high energy bills and raising awareness amongst the most vulnerable and elderly people of society”, Mr. Madden concluded.