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Armagh Observatory, 15 June 2001:
Kieran Hickey of Armagh Observatory has been testing the link between increased temperatures in North-West Europe and the frequency of storms, as shown in the historical records of climate at Armagh and elsewhere. This is part of an on-going research project at Armagh into the nature of climate change in North-West Europe using long-term meteorological records. He presented his results to the American Geophysical Union at a conference held in Boston, USA earlier this month.

Dr Hickey studied the historical storm records from many sites in Ireland, Scotland, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands. Some years have significantly more winter storms than others, possibly as a result of the North Atlantic Climate "Seesaw". This is a weather pattern in which significantly higher temperatures in North-West Europe are associated with much lower temperatures in Greenland, and vice-versa.

The Observatory's work involves collaboration with climate researchers in the Universities of Coventry, Cambridge, and Maine, USA. The research has shown that some of the warmest winters in North-West Europe are also the stormiest. The stormy winters are often associated with low temperatures in Greenland, consistent with the North Atlantic "Seesaw".

Dr Hickey has shown that during these warm, stormy winters some meteorological stations recorded more than twice the expected number of storms, and all recorded significantly more storms than average. Stormy winters occur about once every 5 years, but tend to occur in clusters with long gaps between them. Exceptionally warm winters with storms have been identified as far back as 1840.

An unexpected result has been the discovery that warm, stormy winters are associated with exceptionally high levels of salt in the Greenland ice-core record. This strong correlation provides a new tool to extend investigations of the variation of winter temperature and storminess for North-West Europe over thousands of years.

More research needs to be done to explore and test these ideas, but this finding adds significantly to our understanding of climate change in the North Atlantic and North-West Europe, and highlights the value of the Armagh climate archive.

Dr Kieran Hickey or John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, tel.: 028-3752-2928.

Last Revised: 2001 June 15th
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