Met Office investigating Arctic link to record low temperatures in UK

A cyclist braves the snow near Reeth in the Yorkshire Dales in March 2013
A cyclist braves the snow near Reeth in the Yorkshire Dales in March 2013 Photo: John Giles/PA Wire

After some of the coldest temperatures in almost 100 years, the Met Office says it is "urgent" that we address the causes of our changing weather and the possibility that recent record melts in the Arctic are to blame.

The forecaster's top scientist, Dr Julia Slingo, has told ITV News that she will convene a meeting of top experts from around the world to look into this.

New figures out today show the temperature dropped to -11.2C in Aberdeenshire on April 2 - the lowest April temperature recorded nationally for almost a century. It follows the coldest March since 1962.

Some scientists believe that rapid warming in the Arctic, which saw sea ice shrink to its lowest ever level last September, could be influencing our weather in the UK.

ITV News' Science Editor Lawrence McGinty reports:

Dr Slingo admits that there are many factors that drive our weather system, but says she would be surprised if the warming Arctic wasn't playing a part.

"If this is how climate change could manifest itself, then we need to understand that as a matter of urgency," she told ITV News.

Lawrence McGinty asked how far changes in the Arctic could explain the UK's extended winter:

One of the current theories is that as the Arctic warms, less energy goes into the west-to-east river of fast-moving air known as the jet stream, which controls our weather patterns

This has the effect of slowing the jet stream down meaning that Europe is starting to experience longer periods of static weather, such as the current cold snap.

Dr Jennifer Francis, a research professor at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, told ITV News that the UK's geographical position makes us particularly vulnerable to changes in the Arctic.

Watch her interview with ITV News here

Lawrence McGinty among scientists travelling in a helicopter to the North Pole
Lawrence McGinty among scientists travelling in a helicopter to the North Pole Credit: ITV News

Lawrence McGinty has travelled to a remote research station in the Arctic to meet some of the scientists who are observing the dramatic changes.

For the rest of this week, he will be filing a series of special reports from Camp Barneo - a research station carved out of an ice floe just one degree of latitude from the North Pole.

He spoke to Dr Jamie Morison - an oceanographer who has been visiting the Arctic for the last two decades - who said the diminishing sea ice is visible, even without his monitoring equipment.

Read: Working in the world's most northerly science lab

New figures released by the Met Office today show that the bitterly cold weather continued into April and that records are already falling.

Calculations are still being finalised, but it appears the daytime temperatures recorded at Heathrow, South Farnborough and Wattisham on April 4 were the lowest since the 1960s.

A swathe of records were also broken in Scotland on the night of April 1st:

  • Loch Glascarnoch Ross and Cromarty: -9C (lowest since 1962)
  • Aviemore Inverness-shire: -8.8C (lowest since 1982)
  • Kinlochewe Ross and Cromarty: -6.1C (lowest since 1959)
  • Cassley Sutherland: -7.2C (lowest since 1974)

Dr Slingo says that much more research needs to be done, but that the early indications are that the warmer Arctic is "loading the dice" towards colder, drier weather in the winter and spring.

Follow Lawrence McGinty's full series of reports on the Arctic here.