Researchers at the University of East Anglia and the University of Massachusetts predict that intense, small-scale polar storms may impact climate predictions. These polar events, called mesoscale storms, are difficult to predict and have previously been missing from most climate models.
Findings detailed in the journal Nature Geoscience reveal how polar mesoscale storms can produce winds that are close to hurricane strength, in turn leading to changes in circulation and cooling of the ocean. In fact, experts believe that while difficult to predict, polar mesoscale storms play a very large role in large-scale ocean circulation.
Computer-generated models that include polar ice storms demonstrate shocking changes in ocean circulation, not least of which is an increase in north-travelling heat in the Atlantic Ocean. This heat is causing more overturning in the sub-polar areas.
Unfortunately, climate models do not currently have high enough resolution to consider small-scale polar lows, but by approximating these lows researchers can find the area of the ocean that becomes denser and sinks, thereby intensifying the amount of heat transported to Europe to increase annually.
Since hundreds of these storms occur per year, and over a dozen formidable ones, stormy weather, snowfall, and strong winds result. Most affected areas include Norway, Iceland, Canada, and occasionally the United Kingdom.
Researchers fear the lack of accurate climate modeling will lead to incorrect predictions that do not demonstrate just how much the European and North American climates will change in the very near future.