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What Would You Advise The Government About Our Future Winters?

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Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, is seeking the opinion of the chief scientific adviser about whether the government should be planning for more severe winters in future.

What would you advise the government about how winters are going to be in the next few years and what are you basing your advice on? No one liners without some evidence or explanation please - this is also not a thread for political views, rants about travel problems or as a substitute for the climate threads already covered in other areas, just what you would hypothetically say if consulted by HM government.

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Probable nothing. In that, once this wee spell of cold, snowy winters has expired, we'll all back to normal...Isn't it just down to the Arctic Oscillation??

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Well, it won't be a one-liner, and certainly not a rant...but I certainly would not wish to be in the shoes of the Chief Scientific Adviser, and still less the Transport Secretary .

I hope the CSA will at least have the humility to admit - as many here, including myself, need to do - that even if our position on probable future global temperature movements is unchanged, our assumptions about our local variations were entirely wrong - despite two decades of what it seemed reasonable to believe was good evidence. The truthful answer will be the very one that Mr Hammond will least want to hear - that we just do not know.

It may be that this is just a natural cycle that is overwhelming the overall warmth. Or it may not. These cold winters, historically-speaking, have a tendency to come in batches: it may be that this batch will soon be over. Or not. It may even be that Arctic ice changes (or other aspects of Climate Change) have actually caused or contributed to the cold. Or it may not.

Anybody who thinks they know the answers would seem to be gravely mistaken, and I hope the CSA will not have the audacity to pretend that (?)he does. It was depressing to read Dr Liz Bentley of the Met Office in an interview in the 'gardens' section of the Guardian a couple of weeks ago. After the cold had begun Novemember/early Dec, she was still confidently making foolishly confident statements and even forecasts: "Long-range seasonal forecasts suggest a slightly lower than average temperatures, but nothing extreme. It looks like being drier than than average, too, with plenty of settled conditions...". And on gardening: "We can now grow a range of plants we wouldn't have been able to grow before. I'm growing palms and ferns that I wouldn't have thought to try 15 years ago." Hmmmm.....there are going to be a few dead palms out there come spring, I fear. And many other half-hardy plants will have come a cropper this winter - including a few planted by me.

Assuming he gets an honest opinion, Mr Hammond may wonder why we have a CSA at all. In this situation I might well agree with him.

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It would be a difficult one, it is as naive to assume that future winters will all be cold as it was to assume they would all be warm. As always where you do not know you will have to some kind of cost benefit analysis. I believe that it would be wise to invest in important infrastructure to make it more robust, major airports, motorways etc. However money is not unlimited and we cannot afford to insure against all possibilities. I think one thing that should be looked at is home working, many more people than do could work from home reducing the need to travel during harsh conditions. And in incidences where people cannot work from home perhaps employers should be encouraged to me be more understanding, I believe that in parts of the USA they declare a snow day, offices and industry shut down but the expectation is that people make the time up later or work harder to make up for lost production. We should look at these soft options as well as at buying more snow ploughs especially as they needn't cost very much at all.

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Well, it won't be a one-liner, and certainly not a rant...but I certainly would not wish to be in the shoes of the Chief Scientific Adviser, and still less the Transport Secretary .

I hope the CSA will at least have the humility to admit - as many here, including myself, need to do - that even if our position on probable future global temperature movements is unchanged, our assumptions about our local variations were entirely wrong - despite two decades of what it seemed reasonable to believe was good evidence. The truthful answer will be the very one that Mr Hammond will least want to hear - that we just do not know.

It may be that this is just a natural cycle that is overwhelming the overall warmth. Or it may not. These cold winters, historically-speaking, have a tendency to come in batches: it may be that this batch will soon be over. Or not. It may even be that Arctic ice changes (or other aspects of Climate Change) have actually caused or contributed to the cold. Or it may not.

Anybody who thinks they know the answers would seem to be gravely mistaken, and I hope the CSA will not have the audacity to pretend that (?)he does. It was depressing to read Dr Liz Bentley of the Met Office in an interview in the 'gardens' section of the Guardian a couple of weeks ago. After the cold had begun Novemember/early Dec, she was still confidently making foolishly confident statements and even forecasts: "Long-range seasonal forecasts suggest a slightly lower than average temperatures, but nothing extreme. It looks like being drier than than average, too, with plenty of settled conditions...". And on gardening: "We can now grow a range of plants we wouldn't have been able to grow before. I'm growing palms and ferns that I wouldn't have thought to try 15 years ago." Hmmmm.....there are going to be a few dead palms out there come spring, I fear. And many other half-hardy plants will have come a cropper this winter - including a few planted by me.

Assuming he gets an honest opinion, Mr Hammond may wonder why we have a CSA at all. In this situation I might well agree with him.

I like that Os-who knows what will happen, in the very long term then this kind of spell is probably less likely, but within the next few years I suspect it may still occur.

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Perhaps this may help. Or perhaps not.

A link between reduced Barents-Kara sea ice and cold winter extremes over northern continents.

The recent overall Northern Hemisphere warming was accompanied by several severe northern continental winters, as for example, extremely cold winter 2005–2006 in Europe and northern Asia. Here we show that anomalous decrease of wintertime sea ice concentration in the Barents-Kara (B-K) seas could bring about extreme cold events like winter 2005–2006. Our simulations with the ECHAM5 general circulation model demonstrate that lower-troposphere heating over the B-K seas in the Eastern Arctic caused by the sea ice reduction may result in strong anticyclonic anomaly over the Polar Ocean and anomalous easterly advection over northern continents. This causes a continental-scale winter cooling reaching −1.5°C, with more than 3 times increased probability of cold winter extremes over large areas including Europe. Our results imply that several recent severe winters do not conflict the global warming picture but rather supplement it, being in qualitative agreement with the simulated large-scale atmospheric circulation realignment. Furthermore, our results suggest that high-latitude atmospheric circulation response to the B-K sea ice decrease is highly nonlinear and characterized by transition from anomalous cyclonic circulation to anticyclonic one and then back again to cyclonic type of circulation as the B-K sea ice concentration gradually reduces from 100% to ice free conditions. We present a conceptual model that may explain the nonlinear local atmospheric response in the B-K seas region by counter play between convection over the surface heat source and baroclinic effect due to modified temperature gradients in the vicinity of the heating area.

http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2009JD013568.shtml

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