Changes to ocean currents brought on by warming in the Arctic could see the country gripped by more cold and snowy winters, scientists suggested today.
Researchers believe that the melting of glacial ice could be contributing to the ocean becoming less saline, or "freshening", and warmer -- potentially leading to changes in the circulation of the seas.
Currently cold water in the high Arctic sinks into the deep sea, pulling warmer water up from the Gulf Stream and giving north-west Europe its mild weather.
But increased levels of fresh water and warming Arctic seas could reduce the pull of the current and unbalance weather patterns around the world.
Scientist Simon Boxall said the Arctic was changing faster than previous models had suggested, and that over the last four years the surface area of Arctic ice had shrunk to levels predicted for 2070.
He said the changes were "not just about polar bears and their habitats, it's about the habitats worldwide".
He said the researchers were not suggesting the Gulf Stream would stop.
"It's not a catastrophic The Day After Tomorrow-type scenario," he said.
But he said we could witness more snowy winters.