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More influential than the Gulf Stream:

Westerly storms warm Norway

New research indicates that storms from the west are the main reason that Norwegians can enjoy temperatures 5-10°C warmer than other places so far north. Climate researchers are casting more and more doubt on the Gulf Stream’s role as the primary cause of Norway’s relatively high temperatures.

Photo: Shutterstock New research indicates that storms from the west are the main reason that Norwegians can enjoy temperatures 5-10°C warmer than other places so far north. (Photo: Shutterstock) Conventional wisdom has held that when the Gulf Stream is strong and brings more warm water northwards, Norway gets warmer. But a group of researchers at the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research in Bergen caution against too readily accepting this scientific “truth”.

Their research challenges the traditional thinking about what forces actually shape Norway’s climate and make the country so much warmer than is typical at such a high latitude.

Less impact from the Gulf Stream

Powerful computational models can help climate researchers to understand climate better. The Bergen-based researchers have learned a great deal about global and regional climate by utilising a variety of climate models developed by various international research groups.

Several of these climate models support the conventional hypothesis that the Norwegian Sea is warmed when the Gulf Stream is strong and warm. But the researchers also experimented with models that show no such relationship. Applying a new climate model developed in Norway, they found virtually no correlation between a strong Gulf Stream and warm temperatures off the Norwegian coastline. One exception is the area in the far north, in the Barents Sea, where the transport of warm water appears to be an important factor in sea ice formation.

Photo: UiB There is no unambiguous correlation between the strength of the Gulf Stream on one side and the temperatures in the Norwegian Sea and the climate in Norway on the other, asserts Professor Tore Furevik of the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research. (Photo: UiB) “We have concluded that there is no unambiguous correlation between the strength of the Gulf Stream on one side and the temperatures in the Norwegian Sea and the climate in Norway on the other,” asserts Professor Tore Furevik of the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research. The professor headed a research group that received funding under the Research Council of Norway’s large-scale programme on Climate Change and its Impacts in Norway (NORKLIMA) to study natural climate fluctuations in the North Atlantic.

Norwegian Sea is influential regardless

The effect of Gulf Stream notwithstanding, the Norwegian Sea plays a critical role in the shaping of the climate of Norway by absorbing vast quantities of heat from the sun in the spring and summer, and then releasing that heat into the air in the autumn and winter.

In this way the ocean contributes to the relatively mild winters primarily along the western and northern coast of Norway but also farther inland.

About NORKLIMA

Through the large-scale programme on Climate Change and its Impacts in Norway (NORKLIMA), the Norwegian Government and the Research Council of Norway have funded research groups that have produced fundamentally important knowledge about our planet’s climate.

Two long-term, nationally-coordinated projects – RegClim (1997-2006) and NorClim (2007-2011) – have generated valuable new knowledge about regional climate in Norway as well as the climate of the North Atlantic Ocean.

 

Written by:
Bård Amundsen/Else Lie. Translation: Darren McKellep/Victoria Coleman
Published:
 03.09.2012
Last updated:
10.09.2012