Another cold winter to come…..

I should know better.  My recent seasonal weather forecasts correctly predicted the cold winter of 2012-13, and the July heat wave.  Now should be the time to quit whilst I’m ahead, hang up my sea weed, bow out gracefully and retire from amateur weather forecasting.  But I can’t.  Weather is such an interesting intellectual challenge with so many variables and processes involved that forecasting becomes academically addictive.  Besides, I need to give the Bursar a steer on how many shovels and bags of salt to buy in preparation for winter.

The location and strength of the jet steam will be key to predicting the winter of 2013-14.  It looks as though the Atlantic jet stream could be weaker than usual this winter, with an increased likelihood of blocking high pressure systems developing to the west of the UK.  These will displace moist and mild Atlantic air to the north and south of the UK, and increase the likelihood of a cold, dry winter.  This will be especially so in the East where after a warm autumn, a late but long winter can be expected.  Of course our weather is variable, and there will be times when Atlantic low pressure systems prevail, bringing milder and wetter weather conditions, but these will be the exceptions rather than the rule.  Cold fronts toppling round the high pressure to the west of Britain will bring northerly winds and snow particularly in January and February.  As a consequence we can expect another late spring.  It will be a good year for ice skating in the fens, but Perse Lent Term sports fixtures are likely to suffer.

I will be asking the Bursar to increase the Perse’s stock pile of salt and more than a pinch of it should be used when reading this blog.  Seasonal weather forecasting is notoriously difficult and especially so in mid latitude islands like the UK where atmospheric physics meets oceanography, and tropical and polar air masses mix.  Add to this complexity, natural variations in solar activity, the effects of volcanic eruptions and the many and varied ways in which humans are affecting the atmosphere and it becomes easy to see why professional meteorologists (with serious scientific reputations to protect) avoid seasonal forecasts.  However, my job as a teacher is to provide students with a thorough introduction to meteorology that excites interest; interest which in turn fuels further study.  As the UN report last week concluded the world’s climate is changing, and so we face some difficult decisions.  The ensuing debate will almost certainly be simplified and politicised by competing interest groups, and we will need meteorologically literate decision makers to help governments reach sound conclusions.  It is time for everybody to take an interest in the weather.

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1 Response to Another cold winter to come…..

  1. pete head says:

    Intellectually speaking meteorology would seem to be similar to economics.

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