LONDON - Melting ice in Greenland could lead to scorching hot summers in areas of Europe including the UK, according to scientists.

Experts from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) have found that freshwater in the North Atlantic is linked to hotter, drier summers in Europe, and could be predictable years in advance.

Along with other factors such as El Niño, Britain could be facing searingly hot summers in the near future – although this year’s heat from Greenland meltwater will be focused on southern Europe.

Lead author Marilena Oltmanns, research scientist at the National Oceanography Centre, said, "While the UK and northern Europe experienced unusually cool and wet weather in summer 2023, Greenland experienced an unusually warm summer, leading to increased freshwater input into the North Atlantic."

"Based on the identified chain of events, we expect that the ocean-atmosphere conditions will be favourable for an unusually warm and dry summer over southern Europe this year."

"Depending on the pathway of the freshwater in the North Atlantic, we are also expecting a warm and dry summer in northern Europe within the next five years. We will be able to estimate the exact year of the warm and dry summer in northern Europe more closely in the winter before it occurs."

Why does meltwater change the weather in Europe?

Melting sea ice and glacial ice are a growing source of freshwater to the North Atlantic, and changes in the amount of sea ice can disrupt normal ocean circulation, influencing global climate.

With increases in ice melt, the study suggests that European heat waves and droughts will become more intense in the future.

The warming over Europe after strong freshwater releases in the North Atlantic will add to the warming already happening because of climate change, causing weather patterns to shift.

Why is this finding useful?

As well as being able to predict warm summers in parts of Europe, the findings show how ocean observations can help climate models become better.

Marilena says: "Our findings demonstrate the importance of ocean observations to ensure climate models capture all physical processes required to make accurate weather predictions.

“This study is a step forward for improving models, which will enable industries and stakeholders to plan ahead for specific weather conditions, such as adapting agricultural methods to be more resilient, predicting fuel usage, and bracing for flooding events."

What does the Met Office predict?

The Met Office has said that the outlook for global temperature suggests 2024 will be a further record-breaking year – and could see temperatures hit 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Last year was confirmed as the hottest on record this January, and this year is likely to be even hotter.

Professor Adam Scaife, principal fellow and head of monthly to decadal prediction at the Met Office, said: “It is striking that the temperature record for 2023 has broken the previous record set in 2016 by so much because the main effect of the current El Niño will come in 2024.

“Consistent with this, the Met Office’s 2024 temperature forecast shows this year has strong potential to be another record-breaking year.”

El Niño is the warm phase of a recurring climate pattern across the tropical Pacific, which affects global weather and ocean conditions. The Met Office global temperature for 2024 is forecast to be between 1.34C and 1.58C (with a central estimate of 1.46C) above the average for the pre-industrial period.

It is the 11th year in succession that temperatures will have reached at least 1.0C above pre-industrial levels.