Which role does solar activity play in the occurence of meteorological “blocking events”?

Question of the Week, 18.1.2011

The year 2010 was packed with extreme weather events: Drought and fire in Russia, flooding in Pakistan last summer and most recently the big flood in Australia, where areas as big as Germany and France together are drowned.

All these natural disasters can be traced back to “blocking events” in the atmosphere. A blocking event is a static atmospheric pattern that traps a certain meteorological condition and impedes weather changes.

Computer models suggest that climate change increases the number and the length of heatwaves and the frequency of blocking events. But there is evidence that last year’s blocking events were also caused by very low solar activity.

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Leonie Mueck