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Why Is Europe So Cold, North America Warmer This Winter?

February 10, 2012

Last night the BCC aired one explanation about the reason North America is experiencing a very mild winter, and Europe a harsh one.  Many have asked how Madison can have mild temperatures in the upper 40’s, and even low 50’s at times, with very little snow.  Others want to know why Europe is in the deep-freeze, and many have died as a result.

The answer lies in part with a high pressure system over Russia.  (Is this where the James Bond music starts……?)

Currently there is an intense area of high pressure over much of Europe, extending from Siberia in the east to the UK in the west.

This high pressure means clear, cloud-free days and, crucially, cloud-free nights. In the summer this same set up brought a heatwave to much of eastern Europe. But when it happens at this time of year, a heatwave could not be further from the truth.

For Europe that means in the northern hemisphere, air flows clockwise around a high-pressure system.

The current set-up, with high pressure over Russia, means that our air is coming from the east, bringing low temperatures with it.

The path that this air takes is crucial to whether it is warmed up or cooled down on its journey.

If the air passes over cold land, it may see little change of temperature. A path over warmer land may result in gentle warming. The biggest change of all comes when the air travels over a large area of (comparatively) warm sea.

So this is why different parts of Europe are seeing such a wide spread of temperatures, from lows of -11C (12F) in the UK to -29C (-20F) in Poland – it is all to do with the journey.

When this happens in Europe it often means the flip side (North America) will feel the opposite effects.

5 Comments
  1. February 11, 2012 5:59 PM

    What is clear is that climate change is already altering our planet and many of today’s impacts are harbingers of things to come. As a group of more than 30 leading climate scientists recently wrote in a letter to the Wall Street Journal: “The world is heating up and humans are primarily responsible. Impacts are already apparent and will increase. Reducing future impacts will require significant reductions in emissions of heat-trapping gases.”

  2. Craig skip Weis permalink
    February 11, 2012 4:44 PM

    Jet Stream circling the top-o-globe, trying to buck a high pressure air mass from the south that prevents cold Canadian air from spewing down into Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.

    And I would imagine but don’t know that a low pressure area in Europe has allowed the same strong Jet Stream to drop south, bringing with it the snow.

    Craig skip Weis This ain’t rocket science and it sure has nothing to do with what ever man has done on earth.

  3. human mathematics permalink
    February 11, 2012 3:32 PM

    No clouds in the summer makes a heat-wave because the sun beats down directly on the earth during the day?

  4. Gern Blanston permalink
    February 11, 2012 7:16 AM

    spell-check got me – of course I meant “corporations” not coronations etc etc

  5. Gern Blanston permalink
    February 11, 2012 7:16 AM

    It’s weird that you should post this topic. Since only 2 days ago I witnessed an alarming discussion and have been thinking of it since. Here in the US we do not hear many things that are talked about in other places. We think we are the center of free speech etc but we are not.
    I do not know if such a place exists, however the point remains – anti US corporate chatter is silenced here. The coronations own us and certainly our media is just a PR-wing for them. Yet we foolishly persist in our beliefs that we “know stuff”. What we know are bedtime stories that give plausible explanations for things we fear are true, but don’t want to be true,
    Many eastern-Europeans in casual chat have expressed an GENERALLY ACCEPTED belief that this (weather problem) is because of the BP disaster. They casually refer to it as “BP killing the Mediterranean” and things of that sort. Th point I would like to convey here is not that a small group of nut-cases had a conspiracy theory moment, but that the idea that the BP disaster has had far reaching, dramatic destructive effects on the global situation was openly discussed as a NORMAL idea, generally accepted, not any way a crack-pot theory.
    It is something to consider – there was a point in the BP disaster where all media discussion went dark. There were NO follow-up stories, NO analysis of what was happening re: clean-up and any destructive effects. NO data on the global or regional impacts.
    It is the silence that is deafening. Such a large event, such a HUGE human-interest story…and silence.
    Why?
    It is almost as if it is illegal for the media to discuss the BP incident. it simply seems not to have happened. But, everyone does not feel that way. Other global citizens talk openly and freely about it, and say there are effects “already”.
    We think we know what the truth is in our arrogance as “superior Americans”, but we do not, and we are not.
    We, Americans, are often the biggest fools of all.

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