On Monday, a record-breaking jet stream helped slingshot flights across the Atlantic Ocean at breakneck speeds. Now that same river of air is behind unusual weather systems that are about to track into Europe.
Leading the pack is a massive ridge of high pressure, when the jet stream pushes north, that’s allowing warm air to surge into the Britain, Norway and Sweden.
In Britain, the torching heat has already arrived, shattering national records. Aboyne, Scotland, which is located farther north than Kodiak Island, Alaska, reached 65 degrees Thursday afternoon. It’s a new maximum temperature record for February across all of Scotland. The previous record stood for 122 years — since 1897, the same year William McKinley was sworn into the White House.
Wales could also come close to breaking its all-time February record this weekend: 65.5 degrees, set in 1990.
The extreme high pressure is lingering over the North Sea west of Denmark, where temperatures will remain 10 degrees to 20 degrees above average through the weekend. This comes just a week after Berlin set its record high temperature for February at 62 degrees.
The toasty weather fits into a season of unusually mild days in Oslo — including with a high of 52 degrees on Feb. 13 and 51 degrees on Jan. 4.
The heat wave is not a coincidence. It’s the fingerprint of a world affected by climate change.
“Due to carbon pollution, the atmosphere is warming up at all levels up to the tropopause,” wrote Guy Walton, an Atlanta-based climatologist, referring to an atmospheric boundary. “It’s no surprise that strong ridges aloft are now producing anomalous warmth down to the surface every season.”
The European Environmental Agency concurs, linking episodes such as this to the changing climate. “The number of warm days have doubled between 1960 and 2017 across the European land area,” the agency said in a March report. They define warm days as one that would have been warmer than 90 percent of all other days in the past.
And it’s not just a warming world that is leading to big impacts. Changes in the jet stream, too, can alter storm behavior and the movements of air masses. The ridge triggering all this warmth will whip a pool of cold air down into the Balkan Peninsula and eventually the Mediterranean Sea. There’s a chance that coastal communities in the boot tip of Italy could see a few flurries Saturday night into Sunday. Mount Etna, towering to nearly 11,000 feet on the neighboring island of Sicily, could pick up more than a foot of snow.
Western Europe’s warmth will be quelled early next week as storm systems over the Atlantic deliver cooler weather Tuesday. The first storm — lashing Iceland at the moment — had the pressure Wednesday night of a Category 3 hurricane.