SAMS news room

How a changing Arctic affects UK climate

The Arctic has warmed by around 2°C since 1850, double the global average
The Arctic has warmed by around 2°C since 1850, double the global average

An Arctic researcher from SAMS is among an influential group of scientists that has produced a discussion paper on how the changing Arctic is linked to the UK’s climate.

Prof Finlo Cottier is a co-author on the publication, led by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College, London, which explores how the Arctic is changing and what it means for the future.

The main findings from the paper include:

- The Arctic has warmed by around 2°C since 1850, approximately double the global average. Even if the Paris Agreement successfully limits global warming to a further 0.5°C, the Arctic is expected to warm by at least another 1°C.

- The United Kingdom’s (UK) weather is linked to conditions in the European Arctic. For example, high atmospheric pressure in the Nordic Seas divert damaging storms across the UK and mainland Europe, with the potential to cause societal disruption from flooding.

- It is possible, although presently unconfirmed, that alterations in Arctic conditions provoked the ‘Beast from the East’ winter storm in 2018.

- Scientists need to take observations and improve their understanding of climatic processes in the Nordic Seas and the Arctic Ocean to fill gaps in knowledge about the links between the Arctic climate and the UK’s weather; a risk identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

- The UK has significant research expertise and experience to understand how global warming will change the Arctic’s environment and affect the UK.

- This strength, allied with the capabilities of the UK’s new polar research ship the RRS Sir David Attenborough, warrants an integrated programme of research, including advanced numerical modelling, to improve predictions of future extreme weather events.

- Such a programme must acknowledge that the Arctic is politically an increasingly congested and contested space. It should be designed in collaboration with key Arctic and near-Arctic nations to increase the UK’s influence and ability to prepare, respond and plan for future extreme weather events.

Prof Cottier said: “The Arctic can feel remote from our daily lives but this briefing paper illustrates how interlinked we are in terms of the Arctic influence on our weather.

UK science has a huge amount to contribute to multilateral research efforts in the Arctic and this paper makes a clear case for new investment in that science.”

You can download a copy of the report here.