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Changes in Jet Streams Might Lead to Harsher Winters, Researchers Say

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Feb 17, 2014 08:19 AM EST
winter
In the future, winters might get wetter and colder due to shift in jet streams, researchers said. (Photo : REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque )

Arctic warming is giving rise to wavy jet streams that are affecting climate in the Northern Hemisphere, according to a new study. The shift in wind flow pattern might lead to drastic changes in weather in several countries.

Jet streams are ribbons of strong winds that drive weather systems around the world. These high-speed air currents exist along the boundary of hot air from tropics and cold air from arctic. Jet streams move from west to east.

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Think of these jet streams as a river of wind flowing high above in the atmosphere. A strong jet stream passes all obstacles in its path (areas of high pressure) than weaker streams, which slow down in some areas, leading to drastic weather changes, BBC reported.

Arctic warming has caused these jet streams to weaken, leading to meandering wind streams bringing in erratic weather in Europe and North America. Several parts of the U.S. are facing severe winter storms. United Kingdom, too, is facing a record-breaking wet winter this year. However, Northern regions such as Alaska are currently having unusually 'warm' winters.

Researchers believe that people living in the Northern Hemisphere might experience harsher winters in the future due to the altered jet stream.

"This does seem to suggest that weather patterns are changing and people are noticing that the weather in their area is not what it used to be," Prof Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University in New Jersey, told BBC.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago.

Are humans to blame for the tortuous jet streams and the erratic weather changes? Researchers said that they don't have enough data to support or dismiss the idea.

"Our data to look at this effect is very short and so it is hard to get very clear signal," Francis told AFP. "But as we have more data I do think we will start to see the influence of climate change."

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