The UK's dismal recent summers can be blamed on a substantial warming of the North Atlantic ocean in the late 1990s, according to new scientific research. The shift has resulted in rain-soaked weathersystems being driven into northern Europe, increasing summer rainfall by about a third.
The pattern is likely to revert to drier summers and may do so suddenly, according to Professor Rowan Sutton, at the University of Reading, who led the work. "I can't guarantee it but it is likely," he said. "However we are not sure of the timing, which is what every one wants to know – but we are working on this now." Sutton added that when the switch occurs, it could happen as rapidly as over two to three years.
The summer of 2012 was the wettest in a century and follows a series of above average years for summer rainfall. Sutton's team, who published their study in Nature Geoscience, examined over a century of data and found that the temperature of the North Atlantic remains above or below the long term average for decades at a time. The periods of warmer temperature, the latest of which started in the late 1990s, were found to correlate with wet summers in Northern Europe and hotter, drier summers in the Mediterranean. The team used existing detailed climate simulations to demonstrate a causal link between the warmer oceans and the change in the weather.