How Does The Gulf Stream Impact UK Weather? I Oxford Open Learning
The Gulf Stream

How Does The Gulf Stream Impact UK Weather?

What Is The Gulf Stream?

The Gulf Stream is a powerful ocean current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico, travels along the eastern coast of the United States, and then crosses the Atlantic Ocean towards Europe. It is part of the larger North Atlantic Gyre, which is a circular system of currents in the North Atlantic Ocean. The stream is also part of another system called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC. This system brings warm water from tropical areas north on the surface. When it reaches the Arctic it cools down and sinks and travels south along the ocean floor as part of the deep ocean’s circulation.

Effects On Our Temperatures

The warm waters, (and the associated warm air), from the Gulf Stream have a significant role in moderating the UK climate. For example, during the winter months, the Gulf Stream brings warmer air to the region, preventing extreme cold temperatures that would otherwise occur at such high latitudes. The Gulf Stream means that winters in the UK tend to be milder compared to other regions at similar latitudes, such as eastern Canada. This climate chart shows that the average low in the mid-winter months of Dec and Jan is minus 10.5 degrees Celsius, yet in London at corresponding latitudes, the average winter month temperature is minus 1 degrees Celsius. Although a simplistic analysis this relatively warming 10-degree positive swing in winter temperature clearly illustrates the impact of the Gulf Stream on the UK climate which should be like the bitterly cold Canadian climate.

The impact on our summer climate is not as straightforward as daytime temperatures in London and Calgary are similar during the summer months, but overnight temperatures are about 5 degrees lower in Calgary.

The Gulf Stream also plays a role in transporting moisture from the tropics towards Europe. This moisture contributes to rainfall in the UK, particularly in the western and coastal regions. Areas on the western coast, such as Wales and western Scotland, tend to receive more rainfall than eastern regions due in part to the influence of the Gulf Stream.

The Effect Of Climate Chane On The Gulf Stream And AMOC

The Gulf Stream has a significant impact on the climate of the UK, helping to create the relatively mild and temperate conditions that are characteristic of the region, despite its high latitude. However, the latest Scientific research suggests that it is weakening and slowed by 4% over the last 40 years, which will have as yet unquantifiable impacts on the UK climate. This is a hotly contested issue, but one we’ll save that for another article!


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