Winter is coming, and it could be colder and snowier than normal after forecasters predicted that this year’s El Nino weather phenomenon could be the strongest since 1950. Met Office meteorologists said conditions could mirror those of the 2009/2010 winter which was so long and chilly it was dubbed ‘The Big Freeze.’

My Comment: It's not just the El Nino phenomenon but solar cycles are lining up to make this a brutally cold winter as well. Our Sun is now entering a cycle known as a Solar Grand Minimum, which happens on average every 400-450 years. The last of these grand minimums was called "The Maunder Minimum" and took place around 1600AD. This coincides with a climate period known as "The Little Ice Age"

That winter, heavy snowfall brought transport chaos to much of the country with airports closed and train services suspended. In parts of Scotland temperatures dropped to -8.1F (-22.3C) as record 19 inch snowfall fell in the highlands. In December that year, the average UK temperature was just 30F (-1C) the coldest since records began.

This year's El Nino looks set to be more powerful than usual with forecasters predicting the strongest since 1950. In that year Britain suffered one of its snowiest winters ever. Snow lay for 102 days in the Highlands while 15 inches fell on the Isle of Wight in just three and half hours. Bournemouth saw 10 inches, Scarborough and Lowestoft, 14 inches.

The weather phenomenon happens when ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific, near South America, rise due to a change in the normal wind direction, creating knock-on effects across the globe due to the amount of heat released into the atmosphere.

Met Office meteorologist and BBC forecaster Thomas Shafernaker said: “This time round it could be the strongest in decades.

“In Europe sometimes winters end up much colder and drier and last much into spring. In 2010 the El Nino played a part in bringing huge amounts of snow to the UK.”

Met Office climatologist Dr Dan Smith said El Nino was one of the most important factors for the UK winter, but added that it was too early to tell just how big an impact the phenomenon would have on British weather. The 2010 storm was made worse because El Nino coincided with a solar minimum.
And because each El Nino event is unique, it is impossible to say exactly what the consequences will be for any given year. Dr Smith said the phenomenon was not linear and so a medium strength El Nino could actually cause more disruption than a strong one.
“It is one of the most important factors on our weather,” he said, “But there are other things such as the North Atlantic Oscillation and Sun output. It is not clear right now. We will know more in November.”
However this particular El Nino – known as a Modiki – does appear to be causing concern.
“The latest indication suggests in may be starting to move westwards and cooling near the South American coast,” said Leon Brown, Chief Meteorologist at The Weather Channel. "This is then called a Modiki type El Nino with warm sea surface temperatures in the mid Pacific.
“If that happens then the impact may shift the jet stream and give us a greater risk of a colder negative North Atlantic Oscillation this winter, which usually brings us colder winters.”
A police car is seen as up to 40 cars were stranded on the A171 between Guisborough and Whitby in blizzard conditions
A police car is seen as up to 40 cars were stranded on the A171 between Guisborough and Whitby in blizzard conditions   Photo: Paul Kingston / NNP

El Nino - which means ‘the boy child’ because it was first observed at Christmas - is linked to major global climate events including monsoons in India, heavy rain and storms in North America and Europe including the UK, and floods in Australia. It occurs every two to seven years and is already bringing havoc across the globe.
Experts warned that Britain could be impacted by rising prices in coffee, rice, sugar and cocoa as staple crops in tropical regions are hit by flooding and droughts.
“We could see an increase in food prices,” said Dr Nicholas Klingaman of the University of Reading.
“Typically in response to an El Nino event we see crops rise by about five to 10 per cent, particularly for staple crops like sugar, rice, coffee and cocoa and that’s because El Nino causes floods and droughts in many tropical regions where these crops are grown.



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