Polar storms should be factored into climate prediction

Last Updated: Mon, Dec 17, 2012 09:30 hrs

London, Dec 17 (IANS) Intense polar storms, missing in most climate models, can make a huge difference to climate predictions, according to new research.

Known as polar mesoscale storms, they are capable of producing hurricane-strength winds which cool the ocean and lead to changes in its circulation.

Ian Renfrew, professor of environmental sciences from University of East Anglia's School of Environmental Sciences, according to the journal Nature Geoscience, said: "These polar lows are typically under 500 km in diameter and over within 24-36 hours. They're difficult to predict, but we have shown they play an important role in driving large-scale ocean circulation."

"There are hundreds of them a year in the North Atlantic, and dozens of strong ones. They create a lot of stormy weather, strong winds and snowfall -- particularly over Norway, Iceland, and Canada, and occasionally over Britain, such as in 2003 when a massive dump of snow brought the M11 to a standstill for 24 hours," said Renfrew.

"We have shown that adding polar storms into computer-generated models of the ocean results in significant changes in ocean circulation -- including an increase in heat travelling north in the Atlantic Ocean and more overturning in the sub-polar seas," added Renfrew, according to an East Anglia statement.

Alan Condron from the University of Massachusetts, US, said: "By simulating polar lows, we find that the area of the ocean that becomes denser and sinks each year increases and causes the amount of heat being transported towards Europe to intensify."

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