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Scientists predict colder European winters to come

Continental Europe and Britain are likely to see more unusually cold winters like last season due to low solar activity, according to a new study by British and German researchers published on Thursday.

Scientists predict colder European winters to come
Photo: DPA

The study in “Environmental Research Letters” compared recent low sun spot activity to a solar period called the “Maunder minimum” in the second half of the 17th century, when even the Thames River froze over in London. The period of harsh winters is frequently called “The Little Ice Age.”

In the last 11 years, sun spot activity has been at a 90-year low, providing the researchers from the University of Reading, the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau with a special opportunity to compare historic temperature records with sun activity and investigate how this connects to cold winters in the region.

Their work showed that periods of quieter sun activity influenced atmospheric conditions, creating a “blocking” effect against warm Atlantic air that would normally reach the region, resulting in colder winters.

The meteorological changes affect the jet stream above the region, rerouting the usual mild westerly winds and allowing cold and dry wind to gust over Europe – adding to an overall lower temperature.

The study said that conditions even suggest an eight percent chance that a chilly Maunder minimum-like era could occur once again.

But the scientists insisted that their findings did not disprove the theory of climate change.

“We stress that this is a regional and seasonal effect relating to European winters and not a global effect,” the study said, adding that “results presented here indicate that, despite hemispheric warming, the UK and Europe could experience more cold winters than during recent decades.”

To reach this conclusion, the UK researchers incorporated data from the Central England temperature (CET) record, which dates back 351 years, with sun activity data put together by the Max Planck specialists.

Director the Institute for Solar System Research there Sami K. Solanki said he used magnetic field measurements to measure sun activity, but because these records date back to just 1900, researchers reconstructed older levels with the help of computer simulations.

“The connection between sun activity and the cold winter in Europe was only recognisable after we calculated out the overlaying trend of global warming,” Solanki said in a statement.

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WILDFIRES

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.

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