It’s incredibly difficult for scientists to accurately predict North American and European winters. The weather in these regions is driven by a phenomenon known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), and it’s often hard to pin down in advance. But thanks to a new supercomputer, researchers at the UK’s Met Office are now able to predict winter weather a full year ahead.
According to the Met Office, changes in air pressure in the North Atlantic Ocean are the primary driver of winter climate variability for Europe. The NAO can affect other areas of the world too; the Met Office is currently researching links between the NAO and China’s winter weather. The phenomenon influences temperatures and precipitation.
Met Office researchers published a paper on their predictions this month in the journal Nature Geoscience. Not only would it be convenient to know what winter weather we’ll face, according to lead author Nick Dunstone, predicting the NAO could offer economic benefits. For example, the energy and transportation industries could operate more efficiently with a better picture of what the weather would be like in the coming winter.
The researchers are able to better predict the winter NAO because of a shiny new supercomputer. The first phase of the supercomputer started operations over a year ago in August 2015. The UK government invested £97 million in the Met Office’s “new high performance computing facility.” Back then the Met Office said the supercomputer would help them forecast the weather in greater detail, and it appears they’re delivering on that promise.
So what will the weather be like this winter? According to paper co-author Adam Scaife, “Current signals suggest that the start to winter is likely to be cooler and drier than in 2015.”
Images via Met Office Facebook