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Beast from the East storm in 2018 was fuelled by sea-ice loss from the Barents Sea, study finds

‘What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic!’ Beast from the East storm that plunged Britain to 12°F in 2018 was fuelled by sea-ice loss from the Barents Sea, study finds

  • Researchers from Finland set out to understand the source of the 2018 storm
  • Sea-ice loss in the Arctic potentially supplied 88% of the fresh snow over Europe
  • As the Arctic warms, the polar vortex is displaced southards
  • The experts warn that by 2080, an ice-free Barents Sea will be a major source of winter moisture for Europe, meaning further extreme weather events

If you live in the UK, it’s likely you remember 2018 as one of the coldest winters on record, thanks to the famous ‘Beast from the East’ storm. 

The storm wreaked havoc on Britain, causing temperatures to plunge to 12°F (-11°C) in some areas, along with up to 20 inches (50cm) of snow. 

Now, scientists have revealed that the Beast from the East was fuelled by Arctic sea-ice loss from the Barents Sea. 

Worryingly, the experts warn that by 2080, an ice-free Barents Sea will be a major source of winter moisture for Europe, meaning further extreme weather events are likely to occur.  

If you live in the UK, it’s likely you remember 2018 as one of the coldest winters on record, thanks to the famous ‘Beast from the East’ storm. Pictured is Yorkshire’s Goit waterfall during the storm

In the study, researchers from Oulu University in Finland set out to understand the source of the Beast from the East. 

Their analysis suggests that sea-ice loss in the Barents Sea in the Arctic potentially supplied up to 88 per cent of the corresponding fresh snow over Europe.

This occurs because as the Arctic warms, the polar vortex – an area of cold air and low pressure – is displaced southward, causing outbreaks of low temperatures over Eurasia and North America.  

Hannah Bailey, lead author of the study, said: ‘What we’re finding is that sea ice is effectively a lid on the ocean.

In the study, researchers from Oulu University in Finland set out to understand the source of the Beast from the East. Pictured are daily composited near-surface (2 m) air temperature and sea-level pressure anomalies over the period 19 February to 28 March 2018

In the study, researchers from Oulu University in Finland set out to understand the source of the Beast from the East. Pictured are daily composited near-surface (2 m) air temperature and sea-level pressure anomalies over the period 19 February to 28 March 2018

Their analysis suggests that sea-ice loss in the Barents Sea in the Arctic potentially supplied up to 88 per cent of the corresponding fresh snow over Europe

Their analysis suggests that sea-ice loss in the Barents Sea in the Arctic potentially supplied up to 88 per cent of the corresponding fresh snow over Europe

‘And with its long-term removal across the Arctic since the 1970’s, we’re seeing increasing amounts of moisture enter the atmosphere during winter, which directly impacts our weather further south, causing extreme heavy snowfalls.’

Worryingly, the study suggests that by 2080, the Barents Sea could be ice-free, serving as a major source of winter moisture for Europe.

Ms Bailey aded: ‘It might seem counter-intuitive, but nature is complex and what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.’   

THE BEAST FROM THE EAST

Severe conditions that hit Britain in February 2018 have been described by the Met Office as a ‘cocktail of weather events’.

The cold spell dubbed the ‘the Beast from the East’, was caused by a jump in temperatures high over the Arctic, known by meteorologists as ‘sudden stratospheric warming’.

Temperatures of minus 5°C (23°F) hit parts of Britain in late February 2018, the lowest recorded in the week leading up to March 1 – the first day of spring – since 1986.

Wind chill saw parts of the UK feel as cold as minus 15°C (5°F), rivalling temperatures that hit parts of northern Norway and Iceland.

The cold weather were so severe in the Brecon Beacons that an entire waterfall froze solid.

Walkers in the Welsh national park looked on in fascination as the waterfall near Pen Y Fan mountain was turned into ice amid the cold snap. 

The wintry blast of freezing temperatures, which also hit France, Italy, Spain and Croatia, claimed a number of lives across Europe and put the homeless at particular risk.

 

The cold spell dubbed the ‘the Beast from the East’, was caused by a jump in temperatures high over the Arctic, which is known by meteorologists as ‘sudden stratospheric warming’. 

Temperatures of 12°F (-11°C) hit parts of Britain, which were the lowest recorded since 1986.

The wind chill, which saw parts of the UK feel as cold as minus 5°F (-15°C), rivalled the temperatures for parts of northern Norway and Iceland. 

The cold weather was so severe in the Brecon Beacons that an entire waterfall froze solid! 



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