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High-Altitude Winds Behind Recent Weather Extremes, Study Suggests

Update Date: Jun 23, 2014 09:03 AM EDT

Recent stretches of extreme weather such as persistent warmth and drought in the western U.S. are related to weird fluctuations of wind patterns high above the Earth's surface, according to a new study. 

The study added that the wind patterns are similar to jet streams and it's their strange fluctuations in the upper levels of the atmosphere that's been the focus of the research. 

"Over the past three decades, there is evidence that extreme weather events are linked to changes in atmospheric air flow patterns - specifically these wave patterns and how well developed they are," said study lead author James Screen of the University of Exeter in the U.K, in the press release. 

Whether it's because of natural climate variations or global warming, changes to air flow patterns around the Northern Hemisphere - including the jet stream - are a major influence on prolonged bouts of unusual weather, Screen added according to The Leaf Chronicle. 

Researchers noted that the 'weather extremes' in this context don't include severe weather like tornadoes, thunderstorms, or tropical weather like hurricanes. 

"Although we don't examine trends directly, the implication of our study is that if climate change was to make these wave patterns more frequent, this could lead to more heat waves in the western U.S., droughts in the central U.S. and cold outbreaks in the eastern U.S.," Screen said.

The findings of the study have been published in the journal Nature Climate Change. 

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