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Ancient weather patterns in Europe

Date: 15 December 2020 Tags: Geography & Environment


A landmark study has provided the clearest ever picture of ancient weather patterns in Europe.



The study could improve models used to predict how climate change will affect the Continent in future.



  • Scientists analyzed a wealth of data on ancient glacial deposits that were used to reconstruct 3-D models of the glaciers themselves.

  • The study analyzed over 120 glaciers stretching from Norway and Ireland to Morocco's Atlas Mountains, the Balkans, and Turkey.

  • By working out the shape of those glaciers, they were able to work out how much snowfall they needed to survive and from there determine how the climate behaved during period of rapid climate cooling which occurred 12,000 years ago at the end of the last glaciation.

  • The results indicate that the weather in north-western Europe and most of the Mediterranean was much wetter in this period compared to the present day. It was previously thought to be drier.

  • Crucially, it has allowed those involved in the study to understand the consequences of movement of the jet stream, which governs our seasonal weather patterns.

  • The findings can be used to improve numerical models to better inform us about the long-term effects of ongoing climate change.


Jet streams

  • Jet streams are relatively narrow bands of strong wind in the upper levels of the atmosphere. The winds blow from west to east in jet streams but the flow often shifts to the north and south. 

  • Jet streams are stronger in winter in the northern and southern hemispheres, because that's when air temperature differences that drive them tend to be most pronounced. 

  • Air north of a jet stream is typically colder, while air to the south is usually warmer. As jet streams dip or break off, they move air masses around, creating shifts in global weather patterns.

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